Here in the Notorious Fax
The Natal Witness
A notorious encrypted fax, recording an alleged arms deal bribe to Deputy President Jacob Zuma, emerged into the light of an overcast Durban day at the Shaik corruption trial on Tuesday.
The existence of a handwritten note by Alain Thetard, head of South African operations for French arms company Thomson CSF, which appears to record a proposed R500 000 a year payment to Zuma, has been public knowledge for some time.
Thetard maintains he threw the note into a rubbish bin.
However, yesterday the State produced the Thomson secretary who says Thetard gave her the scrawled note and she typed it up as a fax, and on his instruction sent it in encrypted form to the Thomson head office in Paris.
The prosecution also produced a printout of what she says is her original typed and faxed version of the note.
Shaik's legal team has contested the admissibility of the documents and will argue the issue at the end of the State's case.
Thetard, now in France and refusing to testify in the trial, said in an affidavit earlier this year that the note was merely a rough draft of a document "in which I intended to record my thoughts on separate issues in a manner that 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 wastepaper basket, from where it was possibly retrieved and provided to the state," he said.
The note, presented in court yesterday in a protective plastic sleeve, does indeed have crossings-out and alterations, as well as a crease across the middle.
Former secretary Susan Delique testified she typed and faxed the letter to the company's head office in Paris, on Thetard's instruction when she worked at Thomson-CFS's Pretoria office in 2000. The letter, which is titled "JZ/S. Shaik", reads:
Following our interview held on 30/9/1999 with S. Shaik in Durban and my conversation held on 10/11/1999 with Mr J.P. Perrier in Paris, I have been able (at last) to meet J.Z. in Durban on the 11th of this month, during a private interview, in the presence of S.S.
"I had asked S.S to obtain from J.Z. a clear confirmation or, at least, an encoded declaration (in a code defined by me), in order to validate the request by S.S. at the end of September 1999.
"This was done by J.Z. (in an encoded form).
"May I remind you that the two main objectives of the 'effort' requested of Thomson-CSF are:
- Thomsons-CSF's protection during the current investigations (SITRON);
- J.Z.'s permanent support for the future projects.
"Amount: 500k ZAR per annum (until the first payment of the dividends by ADS)".
The trial centres around alleged corrupt and fraudulent financial transactions between Shaik and Deputy President Jacob Zuma. The state claims Shaik paid Zuma at least R1,2 million for his influence regarding the awarding of the country's controversial arms deal.
According to the state, Shaik played a pivotal role in the alleged bribe, which led to Thomson-CSF winning an arms deal tender. Shaik's company, Nkobi Holdings, shared in this through a joint company, African Defence Systems (ADS).
Charges against Thomson-CSF were withdrawn after Thetard admitted he was the author of the letter presented to court yesterday.
Delique told the court she first revealed the contents of the letter at a meeting with Arthur Anderson and his colleague Gary Parker, who were conducting an audit at Thomson-CSF.
"It was the first time I actually mentioned it. I raised the allegations with Anderson. The seriousness of the allegations was such that I felt it was my duty to tell someone," she said.
Delique then told the court the Scorpions contacted her in June 2001 and she made a statement, but she did not give them the letter as she did not have a copy of it.
"I was going through some papers when I found it. I phoned the Scorpions and handed the letter to them," she said.
When she met the Scorpions, in September this year, Delique told them she didn't have any other evidence to declare, but later that evening she found a computer disk containing the letter. Subsequently, the Scorpions made a copy of her personal computer's hard drive.
During cross-examination, advocate Francois van Zyl asked Delique if she had the "confidential" letter and disk in her possession by "design" or purely coincidentally.
Delique said she grabbed a few "documents", which included the letter, and her handbag from her desk when she left abruptly after a "rather unpleasant" experience with Thetard, in which she feared for her safety, barely three months after joining the company.
When asked if she knew that it was against the company's policy to save documents on computer hard drives or on disks that were not stored in the safe, Delique said she was not told about the policy.
She left Thomson-CSF after a pay dispute and at one stage even threatened to take the company to the CCMA.
With acknowledgements to Nivashni Nair and The Natal Witness.