Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2004-10-27 Reporter: Nivashni Nair

Shaik 'Tried to Disguise Bribe'



The Natal Witness

Date 2004-10-27


Nivashni Nair

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Forensic evidence heard on the 10th day of Schabir Shaik's fraud and corruption trial in Durban indicates that he entered into a "service provider agreement" with French arms manufacturer Thomson-CSF to disguise the alleged bribe to Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

KPMG's Johan van der Walt told the Durban High Court that Shaik signed a "service provider" application form with Thomson-CSF International Africa (Mauritius) on November 1, 2000. This was faxed to Thomson-CSF boss Alain Thetard on December 8, 2000 together with a covering letter asking him to "kindly expedite our arrangement as soon as possible, as matters are becoming extremely urgent with my client".

Van der Walt explained that in terms of the service provider agreement, Kobifin, a subsidiary of Shaik's Nkobi Holdings, was supposed to identify investment projects to Thomson-CSF.

But, he said: "It does not make any business sense that Thomson-CSF International Africa (Mauritius) would enter into such a contract for only six months. It is therefore clear that the essence of this contract was not to identify investment projects, but to facilitate payments to Nkobi."

The R500 000 allegedly promised to Zuma was to be paid in two installments, R250 000 before the end of December 2000 and R250 000 on February 28, 2001. In the contract document, two additional payments of R250 000 were "added by hand underneath the typed references to payment of R250 000". The total amount payable was R1 million.

In December 2000, Shaik wrote to Thetard stating that he was expecting the service provider agreement before December 15, so "I can give effect to its intended purpose before we close".

Van der Walt said he believes the intended purpose was the bribe to Zuma, who at that stage was "strapped for cash" for his traditional village development at Nkandla.

Shaik's trial centres around alleged corrupt and fraudulent financial transactions between Shaik and Zuma.

The state claims Shaik paid Zuma at least R1,2 million for his influence in business deals, including the arms deal.

Van der Walt said the service provider agreement was eventually signed in January 2001.

"We identified an amount of R249 725 deposited into Kobitech's Absa account on February 16, 2001. The funds were transferred from Thomson-CSF International Africa (Mauritius). In the cashflow projections for May 2001 to November 2001, drawn up by Kobitech for Absa, it stated that commissions were due from the Thomson group. These would have been paid in four tranches, the second and third being payable during July 2001 and November 2001," he said.

Although on the cashflow spreadsheet R250 000 was indicated as "other income receivable", Van der Walt said the deposit could not be found in relevant bank accounts.

"It therefore appears that the balance of the service provider payments was not made and there were no attempts from the Nkobi group to legally enforce the payment of the amounts," he said.

In his forensic report, Van der Walt also deals with R1,2 million that was irregularly written off in Nkobi's accounting records under the description of development costs of Prodiba, which Shaik joined to bid for the supply of driving licence cards.

To explain the circumstances surrounding the write-off, Van der Walt yesterday began to explain the shareholding and involvement of Shaik in the Prodiba equation.

Judge Hillary Squires initially felt that Shaik's involvement with the tender to the Department of Transport was irrelevant to his current charges, but Van der Walt explained that it is relevant to the fraud charge, which relates to the write-off.

According to the state: "On February 28, 1999 an amount of R1,2 million was irregularly written off in the Nkobi accounting records under the description of development costs of Prodiba. This included an amount that was paid to Zuma. The balance represented amounts that Shaik and Floryn Investments owned to the Nkobi group. This resulted in the misrepresentation of the 1999 Annual Financial Statements of Kobifin (Pty) Ltd, in that accounts receivable or director's and /or related third party loans were understated.

"Alternatively, retained income was overstated. The write-off to Prodiba development costs is false, irregular and does not comply with the Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP)."

Van der Walt will today continue his testimony on the events leading up to the "irregular write-off".

With acknowledgements to Nivashni Nair and The Natal Witness.