Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2004-10-19 Reporter: Nivashni Nair

Shaik's Panic Over Probe



The Natal Witness

Date 2004-10-19


Nivashni Nair

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Schabir Shaik's former personal assistant, Bianca Singh, on Monday told the Durban High Court of his reaction to the investigation into the country's controversial arms deal.

Singh, the state's second witness in Shaik's corruption and fraud trial, said Shaik (pictured, right) met Alain Thetard, a director of Thint (part of French arms company Thomson CSF) to "do some damage control" regarding newspaper articles and investigations into the arms deal in 2000.

Singh told the court she was present at a meeting in Mauritius, where she claims Shaik told Thetard that if the investigations continued and if a "certain ANC member opened his mouth they would be in real trouble".

She said Shaik asked her if she was minuting the meeting and she replied that she was. "Things became uncomfortable and I was asked to leave," she told the court.

Singh was a "surprise" witness, as the state did not include her on the witness list handed to court.

Prosecutor Billy Downer said Singh has been under protection for the last two weeks and to ensure her personal safety her name was not on the witness list.

Smartly dressed in a grey and black suit, the young woman avoided eye contact with Shaik as she told the court of the "close" relationship her former boss had with Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

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 regarding the awarding of arms deal and other contracts.

According to the state, Shaik played a pivotal role in the annual R500 000 bribe allegedly promised to Zuma by Thint.

Singh on Monday told of Zuma's frequent visits to Shaik's company, Nkobi Holdings, and of the many phone calls between the two men.

She said Shaik even asked Zuma to help "land a deal", which she believes was the arms deal. "His cellphone rang. It was his brother Chippy. He told him not to worry. Mr Shaik then dialled the deputy president. He said 'Hello, my brother, Hello JZ.' He said 'Chippy is under pressure. We need your help to land this deal'," Singh recalled.

Chippy is the former head of acquisitions in the Department of Defence and was in charge of the SA National Defence Force's multi-billion rand arms procurement programme.

When asked why she thought the telephone call was linked to the arms deal, Singh said that if it was another venture, Shaik would have referred to it as a project or contract.

Singh also told the court that she found black and white diagrams of naval corvettes in Shaik's office.

She said Shaik rented a flat for Zuma and transferred funds to him. "They would speak on the phone and Mr Zuma would often come to visit. Mr Shaik would also visit Mr Zuma at his flat and have breakfast with him on Saturdays," she said.

Singh said she was instructed by Shaik to keep two red files in which Zuma's financial affairs were recorded.

"Mr Shaik had also arranged for an account for Mr Zuma to be opened at Absa bank. This account was managed on the computer together with Nkobi Holdings' finances and Mr Shaik's personal account," she said.

Shaik viewed the bank statements on a daily basis.

Singh said Shaik paid Zuma's children's school and university fees and even bought him Armani and Gucci suits from an upmarket clothes store as, she claims, Shaik had commented that the "minister wears very cheap suits".

Singh shyly told the court that Shaik crudely indicated that having friends in high places was taking its toll, but it was "okay".

"He said he had to carry a jar of Vaseline because he gets f**ked all the time, but it's okay because he gets what he wants and the ministers get what they want," she said.

Singh quit her job after an "incident of a personal nature" during her business trip with Shaik in Mauritius.

Shaik's advocate Francois van Zyl objected to the details of the incident being brought before court.

After the incident, Shaik's lawyer Anand Moodley drew up a contract so that Singh could be paid out for her services. Moodley also told her Shaik insisted on a confidentiality clause because she knew too much about his relationship with Zuma.

After the day's proceedings, Shaik's brother Mo, who has been elected as his spokesman, told journalists Singh was paid R40 000.

He said he had "no idea" what happened on the night of the incident and that his brother is a married man.

With acknowledgements to Nivashni Singh and The Natal Witness.