Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2005-04-27 Reporter: Nivashni Nair Reporter:

Shaik's Credibility Destroyed



The Natal Witness




Nivashni Nair

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Prosecution leader details 'evasions, blaming others, and false documents'

Schabir Shaik's credibility as a witness at his fraud and corruption trial was on Tuesday ripped apart during the second day of the state's final arguments at the Durban High Court.

"It is submitted that Shaik was neither an honest nor credible witness and that his evidence in any particular respect cannot be accepted unless it is corroborated by other credible evidence," prosecution leader advocate Billy Downer SC explained.

He told the court that Shaik's evidence was "littered with evasions and equivocations". Downer then presented over 35 examples of Shaik's evasion of questions put to him during his testimony. He branded Shaik "unhelpful" and went to the extent of saying that often Shaik's attempts to evade questions led to answers that were "bordering on absurdity".

Downer went on to say that Shaik always shifted responsibility "so he couldn't take blame for wrongdoings".

"Shaik blamed others in every case that presented evidence of some wrongdoing, incrimination or irregularity, and in circumstances where the facts and probabilities required that he take responsibility," he explained.

Downer then produced more that 20 instances of Shaik blaming others for irregularities, including him passing the buck to his auditors, accountants, financial director Colin Isaacs, Absa Bank and French arms manufacturing company Thomson-CSF.

To strengthen his claim that Shaik was not a credible witness, Downer told the court that Shaik was party to a series of false documents.

He made reference to Shaik's curriculum vitae where Shaik falsely claims to be a "graduate of prestigious universities in Europe and the U.S., a qualified engineer and a published author". Thereafter Downer presented the court with over 15 instances when Shaik falsified documents. These included a misrepresentation of Deputy President Jacob Zuma's assets and liabilities, which Shaik submitted to Absa Bank.

He also mentioned numerous letters and faxes in which Shaik refers to himself as the "Special Economic Advisor" to Zuma. "Shaik held no such position. We submit that this was yet another lie that Shaik peddled, apparently with Zuma's blessing, in an attempt to gain business advantage," Downer explained.

He said the false documents served Shaik's own interest and in most instances Shaik was the "author or instigator of such self-serving documents or statements".

Earlier, the state revisited count one, which relates to general corruption. With reference to the Point Development and Shaik's Nkobi Group's partnership with Thomson-CSF, Downer asked the court to rule that Shaik was in fact paying Zuma for his influence to win business deals for his group.

"It is submitted that Zuma, in conflict with his constitutional and other duties, permitted Shaik in general to use Zuma's name to further Shaik's private interest," he explained.

Judge Hilary Squires then interrupted Downer to say that he was not concerned with Zuma's role in the alleged corruption.

"You have emphasised Zuma's role a number of times, I am not concerned with that," Squires said.

Downer responded that Zuma may not be on trial, but the court needs to find out why he was willing to contravene his constitutional duties to help Shaik. According to Downer, it was because Zuma was paid by Shaik to do so.

He then told the court to consider why Shaik was willing to give up so much for the sake of friendship.

"It is because he knew the effects of his payment were that Zuma could not refuse to help him," he said.

Later, Downer explained the merits of the state's case regarding count two, which relates to the R1,2 million which was irregularly written off in the Nkobi accounting records under the description of development costs of Prodiba, which included Zuma payments. The amount was written off against a non-distributable reserve which was simultaneously created against a loan account of Kobi-IT. The write-off was misrepresented in Nkobi accounting records and did not conform with general accounting practices.

"It is preposterous and repugnant for Shaik now to claim that he did not know of the write-off or its effects. Shaik signed the annual financial statements. The annual financial statements are his responsibility as the controlling director and shareholder, and as the CEO. It was his duty to ensure, before signing them, that he knew and understood their contents," Downer told the court.

He said only Shaik and Nkobi stood to benefit from the write-off.

"In that the misrepresentation was calculated to obtain the overdraft extension and avoid a qualification. In addition, Shaik was personally absolved from repaying his outstanding loan account that included some payments that Nkobi had made to Zuma," Downer explained.

Referring to the reversal of the write-off, Downer said it was like shoplifting.

"It's akin to have been found lifting off the shelves in a shop and then wanting to put the goods back," he said.

Downer will present his final arguments regarding count three tomorrow *1. It relates to an alleged annual R500 000 bribe, which the state claims Shaik solicited from Thomson-CSF to Zuma in exchange for protection against a probe into South Africa's controversial multi-million rands arms deal.

The trial continues tomorrow.

With acknowledgements to Nivashni Nair and The Natal Witness.

*1 da biggi.