The Slippery World of Weapons Trading
One of the corruption charges against Schabir Shaik is that he requested Alain Thetard, a director of Thomson-CSF (later redubbed Thint), "to arrange the payment of a bribe" to Jacob Zuma, the deputy president.
Thint, still accused number 11 on the charge sheet, is alleged to hae been asked for the bribe in return for Zuma's "protection against the then current investigation regarding [the arms deal] and [his] permanent support for future [arms] projects."
The amount of the bribe was, according to the state, agreed to be R500 000 a year. How the state reached this conclusion was via a so-called encrypted fax Thetard is alleged to have sent from South Africa to his headquarters in Mauritius and/or France, in which the deal is "set down". But in August Thint revealed - in making an application to have the national director of public prosecutions keep his word - that in April it had cut a deal with the national directorate of public prosecutions to have charges against it dropped in return for an affidavit from Thetard.
It is not know why Bulelani Ngcuka, the then national director, cut this deal if he had the fax and was confident about its content. But presumably he thought it worthwhile to make the deal so that at least its existence would be authenticated by the person who wrote it.
And, indeed, Thetard gave an affidavit - in fact two. But in the second of these he said the "fax" had merely been a scrap of paper he was writing down private notes, and that no bribe was ever discussed or offered to anyone.
Although Thint's application to have Ngcuka honour his promise before October 11 was turned down, it was confirmed in court that the NDPP intended to keep its word to withdraw charges - and this ought to happen tomorrow.
What is Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) (Pty) Ltd - or, as it is better known to most people, Thales?
It is the local subsidiary of the massive French-based arms manufacturer and dealer originally known as Thomson-CSF, later to be called the Thales group of companies. Thomson-CSF International (France), which later became known Thales International, is a division within the main group. Thales International, in its turn, has a subsidiary, Thales International Africa Ltd (Mauritius). On May 21 1996, Thomson-CSF Holdings (Southern Africa) was incorporated in South Africa to promote the development of local industry by entering joint ventures.
Later, certain share transactions took place that resulted in Thomson-CSF International (France) and Nkobi Investments becoming the only shareholders in Thomson Holdings. Then Thomson Holdings became wholly owned by Thomson-CSF International (France) and then by Thales International Africa Ltd (Mauritius), which became the sole shareholder of Thomson Holdings.
Thomson Holdings became Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) in October 2003.
With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and the Sunday Independent.