Shaik Never Intended Defrauding Taxman
Wendy Jasson da Costa
Fraud and corruption accused Schabir Shaik said on Wednesday it was never his intention to defraud the taxman despite gaining substantial benefits from the write-off of R1,2 million as development costs from his company's 1999 annual financial statements.
"M'lord, it is not my intention, never was and never shall be to misrepresent my financials," said Shaik in the Durban High Court.
Shaik blamed the auditors David Strachan and Taylor for the write-off.
He said he paid handsomely for their expertise. The state alleges the R1,2 million was bribe money paid to Deputy President Jacob Zuma and in exchange Shaik used Zuma's political influence to further his business interests.
Shaik said he first became aware of a possible "problem" in his books when he received a resignation letter from his former accountant, Celia Bester.
Bester said in the letter she was unable to put through the development costs in the books.
Shaik then called a meeting with his auditors, set the agenda and then left them to discuss the issue.
"You don't know what happened at the meeting. For all we know they could have had a game of poker," said judge Hillary Squires.
"When you signed the 1999 financials, what did you think became of the loan account?" asked prosecutor Billy Downer.
"I did not apply my mind to the loan account at that time," said Shaik.
He said he had no basis to query the financials and that he merely had to sign it.
Downer asked him what motive the auditors or his financial manager Colin Isaacs could have had to do the write-off.
Shaik told Downer that perhaps he should put it to them himself *1.
"Who stood to benefit from the write-off?" Downer persisted.
He said Shaik's company stood to gain by showing an improved income statement.
Shaik was chastised twice during proceedings by Squires. "Shaik, control yourself, you are the accused," the judge said on one occasion.
Shaik apologised but later he again told Downer, "You should have been listening," while he was being questioned about Bester."
Just before the lunch adjournment Squires thundered at a journalist for "refreshing" himself with a cooldrink in court A.
Later the elderly court orderly warned the court in English and Zulu that he was going to call his "Lordship" and that "all cell telephones" had to be switched off "completely" because one had rang earlier.
Shaik said it appeared that there had been a "comedy of errors" in his accounting records dating back to George Govender, his previous accountant.
Shaik was asked why the same auditors who made such a "fundamental error" with the write-off was still contracted to his company. He said he would have a meeting with his shareholders after the trial about the matter.
Shaik was also asked why his financial manager, Isaacs *2, did not know that his company was making "non-recoverable loans" to Zuma. Shaik said all money loaned to Zuma was taken from the Shaik loan account at Nkobi.
The public gallery has been filled to capacity since Shaik first took the stand last week.
On Wednesday Shaik said he was a successful businessman, had never been subpoenaed by the taxman and employed more than 300 people. He would therefore not do anything unlawful to jeopardise his business.
Downer asked him how the court could believe someone who lied about his qualifications and falsified business sheets to ABSA bank to portray himself in a good light.
"There is some good in me, there is some bad in me," said Shaik.
"You mean lying about your qualifications to impress clients is one thing, lying to the taxman is another?" asked Squires.
Shaik replied in the affirmative.
The trial continues.
With acknowledgement to Wendy Jasson da Costa and Sapa.
*1 This is normally taken as a fairly unco-operative response in a court proceeding.
*2 CA(SA) - just like Shauket Allie Fakie, members of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants in Southern Africa (ABASA) and icons of accounting during the struggle - Vi Va.