Encrypted Zuma Fax Sees the Light
Ben Maclennan, Wendy Jasson da Costa
A notorious encrypted fax, recording an alleged arms deal bribe to Deputy President Jacob Zuma, emerged into the light of an overcast Durban day at the Shaik corruption trial on Tuesday.
The existence of a handwritten note by Alain Thetard, head of South African operations for French arms company Thomson CSF, which appears to record a proposed R500 000 a year payment to Zuma, has been public knowledge for some time.
Thetard maintains he threw the note into a rubbish bin.
However on Tuesday the State produced the Thomson secretary who says Thetard gave her the scrawled note that she typed it up in fax form, and on his instructions sent it in encrypted form to the Thomson head office in Paris.
The prosecution also produced a printout of what she says is her original typed and faxed version of the note.
Shaik's legal team has contested the admissibility of the documents and will argue the issue at the end of the State's case.
Thetard, now in France and refusing to testify in the trial, said in an affidavit earlier this year* that the note was merely a rough draft of a document "in which I intended to record my thoughts on separate issues in a manner which was not only disjointed but also lacked circumspection".
"It is for this reason that I did not fax this document or direct that it be faxed. I crumpled it and threw it into the waste paper basket** from where it was possibly retrieved and provided to the state," he said.
The note, presented in court on Tuesday in a protective plastic sleeve, does indeed have crossings-out and alterations to the spidery black script, as well as a crease across the middle.
But it is clearly headed: FAX CRYPTE.
The secretary, Susan Delique, told the court Thetard gave her the note when he returned from what she believed was a meeting with Shaik and Zuma in Durban in March 2000.
The typed version of the note is addressed to Thomson's sales director for Africa, Yann de Jomaron, and headed "Subject: JZ/S.Shaik".
It reads: "Dear Yann: following our interview held on 30/9/1999 with S. Shaik in Durban and my conversation held on 10/11/1999 with Mr J.P. Perrier in Paris I have been able (at last) to meet JZ in Durban on the 11th of this month, during a private interview in the presence of S.S. I had asked for S.S. to obtain from J.Z. a clear confirmation or, at least, an encoded declaration (in a code defined by me), in order to validate the request by S.S at the End of September 1999. This was done by JZ, (in an encoded form). May I remind you of the two main objectives of the 'effort' Requested of Thompson-CSF are:
-- Thompson-CSF's protection during the current investigations (SITRON)
-- JZ's permanent support for the future projects
Amount: 500k ZAR per annum (until the first payment of the Dividends by ADS)."
The State hopes to prove that Zuma was to get the money in return for protecting Thompson and Shaik's company Nkobi Holdings against probes into irregularities in their acquisition of a share in the multi-billion rand arms deal.
It also hopes to prove Zuma helped the two companies secure their slice of the arms deal in the form of a tender for the electronic combat suite in the navy's four new corvettes.
Thompson won the tender, and then shared it with Nkobi via a joint shareholding in African Defence Systems -- the ADS in the encrypted fax.
Delique, who worked for Thomson in its Pretoria office for little more than three months, gave her evidence under the watchful eye of two Scorpions bodyguards.
She told the court she had been unhappy there because she was being asked to do work outside her secretarial job and not being paid for it.
She left abruptly after a "rather unpleasant" experience with Thetard, in which she had feared for her safety.
She grabbed her handbag and "what I had on my desk" and left.
Among this material was Thetard's handwritten note, which she subsequently handed over to the Scorpions after they approached her in 2001.
She said it was only last month, on re-reading a statement she had made to the Scorpions, that she looked through a few computer discs she had retained from her Thomson days and discovered her typed version of the note.
Asked by a sceptical Van Zyl*** whether it was "pure coincidence" that she had walked out with the handwritten document and the crucial disc, she replied: "Yes."
She said she normally saved documents onto both her computer hard drive and onto a disc.
Asked by Van Zyl about a statement by another Thomson employee who said it was company policy not to save documents onto a hard drive, only to disc, and that the discs were locked in a safe after hours, Delique said if this was true, she did not remember being told.
She said that after she left she contacted Thomson's auditors and told them about the lack of accounting controls in the company, and that she believed Thetard was "not acting in the best interests of the company".
She said she had had a dispute with Thomson over R12 500 back pay she was owed, and that she was told there was a problem with shortage of funds.
She had threatened to go the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, but Thomson eventually settled.
Delique continues under cross examination on Wednesday.
With acknowledgement to Ben Maclennan, Wendy Jasson da Costa and Sapa.
* This was the second affidavit. In his first affidavit, in return for which Bulelani dropped the charges against Thint (Pty) Ltd, the this time truthful Frenchman admitted being the author of the handwritten draft of this fax.
** Pinoccio would hero worship this equivocating Frenchman - Squires J, and not Pinoccio, is on the bench.
*** Cross-examiners always try to appear sceptical when trying to deal with their opponent's witnesses' "killer" evidence.