Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2004-10-25 Reporter: Sapa

Shaik Thought Political Connections Would Help : Witness






Date 2004-10-25




A witness told the Schabir Shaik fraud and corruption trial in Durban on Monday that Shaik believed his political connections would enable his company to get a slice of the multi-billion rand arms deal.

Johan van der Walt, a forensic auditor at the firm KPMG commissioned by the Scorpions in 2003, said the French firm Thomson-CSF regarded political connections as important in the adjudication process of the arms deal.

He said Shaik believed his political connections would add to the success of Thomson-CSF and African Defence Systems (ADS).

van der Walt said Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who was the kwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic affairs at the time, attended a Thomson-CSF meeting where the final share distribution between Thomson and ADS was confirmed. ADS is part of Schabir Shaik's Nkobi group of companies.

The meeting happened on November 18, 1998, the same day the Cabinet announced that the German Frigate Consortium was a preferred supplier of corvettes to the South African navy.

Thomson-CSF and ADS had an interest in the consortium.

van der Walt said that during this period "the frequency and the value of payments made by the Nkobi group or Shaik for and on behalf of Zuma increased".

He said on the day the cabinet decision was taken the amount of payments to Zuma totalled R432 456.

President Thabo Mbeki and his predecessor Nelson Mandela were both mentioned in the trial on Monday.

van der Walt told the court that there were indications that Mbeki and Mandela were involved in negotiations and discussions in the run up to the day that cabinet approved the list of bidders in the arms deal.

However, he said it appeared they were only involved in attempts to resolve disputes concerning the black empowerment partner component reflected in the shareholding structure of Thomson-CSF and ADS*.

Shaik faces three charges of fraud and corruption for allegedly facilitating payments to Zuma in return for protection during probes into the arms deal.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.

* The question is :

"Can this be lawful, in the middle of a selection process by the Department of Defence and Armscor to contract for the goods and services making up a R2,6 billion combat suite for the SA Navy's corvette in accordance with a system which is "fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective ?