Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2004-10-11 Reporter: Wendy Jasson Da Costa Reporter: Ben Maclennan

Shaik Trial : Why Were Charges Withdrawn?



Mail and Guardian

Date 2004-10-11


Wendy Jasson Da Costa, Ben Maclennan

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The withdrawal of charges against arms company Thint at the start of the Schabir Shaik fraud and corruption trial was not just technical it was also meaningful, Thint's lawyer Kessie Naidoo said.

Naidoo said the state had wanted information which Thint had provided and the charges had then been withdrawn unconditionally.

He said that at some stage during the trial someone would have to explain why the charges were withdrawn.

The move, the result of an agreement between Thint and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), came as the Durban High Court dealt with the preliminaries ahead of Shaik's trial.

The NPA agreed in April this year to drop the charges against Thint in return for confirmation from its director Alain Thetard that he was the author of a document that allegedly records a bribe offer to Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

Thetard confirmed his authorship but said the documents merely contained rough notes that had nothing to do with a bribe.

In August Thetard applied to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to force the NPA to withdraw charges immediately, but was unsuccessful.

The NPA said then it would only withdraw at the start of Shaik's trial.

Shaik has an indirect shareholding in Thint, which was previously known as Thomson CSF.

He is accused of colluding with Thint's parent company in France to pay Zuma R500 000 a year for protection against a probe into arms deal irregularities.

Shaik's Nkobi group of companies has a shared interest with Thint in a multi-million rand tender awarded in the arms deal Corvette programme.

Thetard has refused to testify in the Shaik trial.

The trial then moved on to an application by and the South African Broadcasting Corporation to air the proceedings live.

Mo Shaik, Schabir's younger brother and Zuma's immediate subordinate in Umkhonto weSizwe's (MK) intelligence services, told the Mail & Guardian last week that the Shaik family would fight the charges to the bitter end. "We are prepared to sell everything and be poor again. We only have our names left to defend," he said.

At issue in the trial will be whether the Shaiks and Zuma should have distanced themselves from one another once the relationship began to pose a clear conflict of interests.

With acknowledgements to Wendy Jasson Da Costa, Ben Maclennan and the Mail & Guardian.