Famous Fax Now Court Exhibit E30
Emerging from court, Schabir Shaik, the Durban businessman and former financial advisor to deputy president Jacob Zuma, said smilingly: "Well, at least I've finally seen it."
And so in effect had the whole of South Africa at last been able to see it as well.
Shaik, on trial in the Durban High Court for corruption and fraud, was referring to the now famous "encrypted fax", allegedly sent from the Pretoria office of arms dealer Thomson-CSF by Alain Thetard, a company director, to a colleague or colleagues in Paris.
A single sheet of paper in a plastic cover, the typed and translated copy, marked with the exhibit number E30, was passed around the front of the court for each legal team to examine. In the fax, dated March 17, 2000, and addressed to Yann de Jomaron of Thomson-CSF, Thetard writes that he has finally been able to meet "JZ" privately "in the presence of SS".
Thetard writes that he had asked for an "encoded" confirmation from JZ that he, JZ, would protect Thomson-CSF in the then investigations into the arms deal by parliament (known as SITRON) and would also "permanently support" Thomson-CSF in "future projects".
Thomson-CSF, along with Shaik's Nkobi Holdings, was part of the group that had in turn been part of the German Frigate Consortium (GFC), which had been announced by the government on November 18, 1998, as the preferred bidder for the contract to construct corvettes for South Africa.
In the fax, having said what was required from Zuma, Thetard writes one final line: "Amount: 500K ZAR per annum (until the first payment of the dividends by ADS)."
ADS was African Defence Systems, also part of the Thomson/Nkobi group and the actual manufacturer of the corvette computerised command and control "combat suites".
The State hopes to prove that Zuma was to get the money in return for protecting Thompson and Shaik's company, Nkobi Holdings, against probes into irregularities in their acquisition of a share in the multibillion rand arms deal. It also hopes to prove Zuma helped the two companies secure their slice of the arms deal in the form of a tender for the electronic combat suite in the navy's four new corvettes.
Thetard, now in France and refusing to testify in the trial, said in an affidavit earlier this year that a handwritten note containing the same text which is in the hands of the Scorpions was merely a rough draft of a document "in which I intended to record my thoughts on separate issues in a manner which was not only disjointed but also lacked circumspection".
"It is for this reason that I did not fax this document or direct that it be faxed. I crumpled it and threw it into the waste paper basket from where it was possibly retrieved and provided to the State," he said.
The state contends - it is charge No 3 against Shaik - that this fax represents a clear request from Shaik for a bribe for two years for Zuma.
But, following cross-examination today of Susan Delique, the former Thomson-CSF secretary who gave the fax to the Scorpions, by Francois Van Zyl SC, for Shaik, argument will be heard on whether the document is in fact genuine and whether therefore Judge Hilary Squires should even admit it as part of the evidence.
Delique said she had been Thetard's secretary for the first three months of 2000, but had wanted to leave because she had been required to work overtime for which she was not reimbursed.
On the day that she handed in her resignation, there had apparently been an altercation of some kind between herself and Thetard and she, "fearing for her safety", had grabbed her hand bag and a number of papers on her desk, and fled the Thomson-CSF offices in Pretoria. Later she had found that one of the papers she had grabbed was a copy of the fax.
Earlier Thetard had given it to her in handwritten form and she had typed it, printed it on a piece of paper (in French), and then sent it on an encrypted fax line to De Jomaron and, she claimed yesterday, also to JP Perrier, a senior Thomson-CSF executive.
The copy of the fax was handed to the Scorpions early in 2001. Then, said Delique she examined an old computer disk in her possession last month.
On it, she said, she found that she had saved a copy of the fax.
With acknowledgements to Jeremy Gordin and the Cape Argus.