Shaik Brought to Book
One of the biggest trials in post-apartheid history, in which South Africa's deputy president is implicated in bribery and corruption, is due to start in Durban today.
In a case with massive political implications, local businessman Schabir Shaik is charged with corruption relating to his financial relationship with Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Shaik, who served as Zuma's financial advisor, is accused of bribing South Africa's second-in-charge in exchange for favours that would help his business dealings.
A member of a prominent South African liberation struggle family, Shaik will appear in the Durban High Court on three charges of corruption and fraud.
He allegedly paid Zuma a total R1.3 million ($200,000) between 1995 and 2001 to use his political influence in helping secure lucrative business deals for Shaik's Nkobi Holdings company, including a controversial, multi-billion-dollar arms contract.
Zuma, who features throughout the state's 45-page charge sheet against Shaik, is currently tipped to become South Africa's next president after Thabo Mbeki finishes his term in 2009.
Prosecutors plan to present evidence that Shaik not only made improper "loans" to Zuma, but also picked up the tab for the leader's children's education, family allowances and personal items amounting to more than one million rand ($154,000).
They will also try to prove that the former political activist brokered a deal in which French arms manufacturer Thales, formerly known as Thompson CSF, was to pay the deputy president R500,000 ($76,000) a year in return for protection in investigations into suspected irregularities in the arms contract, and Zuma's "permanent support" in future projects.
Shaik is a director of African Defence Systems (ADS) and a stakeholder in Thompson CSF, which were both part of the winning consortium bidding for the lucrative December 1999 contract to supply corvettes to the South African navy.
With acknowledgements to AFP and Business Day.