Zuma's Links with Shaik in the Dock
Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin
Essentially, it is the friendship between Durban businessman Schabir Shaik and Deputy President Jacob Zuma that is going on trial this morning.
The State's main charge is corruption - which, when boiled down, amounts to the State's contention that the friendship between Zuma and Shaik, "financial advisor" to Zuma, was a corrupt money-making machine for both parties.
Shaik, it is expected, will argue that the relationship was a friendship and business connection in which things were done and favours granted that fall under the umbrella of friendship.
Zuma, having not been charged, will have to be satisfied with having a legal team who can only watch proceedings from the side-line.
The State has briefed advocate Guido Penzhorn, SC, a world-renowned prosecutor of corruption cases, to assist its team.
The State's indictment makes it clear that it is going into the battle with belt and braces. Apart from the two main charges of corruption and one of fraud there are a host of alternative charges taken from the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Companies Act.
Shaik and 10 corporations - Nkobi Holdings, Nkobi Investments, Kobifin (Pty) Ltd, Kobitech (Pty) Ltd, Proconsult (Pty) Ltd, Pro Con Africa (Pty) Ltd, Kobitech Transport Systems (Pty) Ltd, Clegton (Pty) Ltd, Floryn Investments (Pty) Ltd and Thint (Pty) Ltd - have been charged with corruption and fraud and a host of alternative charges. They have not been asked to plead yet. It is expected that charges against Thint will be withdrawn.
In the final indictment, there are three charges against Shaik.
Count one is a charge of corruption. The State believes that Shaik had given money to Zuma, even though it was not legally due to him, to get help from him abusing his powers either actively or by refraining from executing his duties.
As an alternative to the first charge, Shaik and his companies are charged with reckless trading.
According to the indictment it will be the State's case that the payments to Zuma made no business sense as the companies were not in the business of making payments to politicians and in that the Nkobi group could not afford the payments.
The State says it can prove that Nkobi was "at all times" in a cash-strapped position. It relied on bank overdrafts - thus effectively borrowing money from banks at the relevant interest rates to make the said payments interest free.
As a second alternative to the first charge Shaik and his companies face an allegation that they contravened the Companies Act. It is alleged that the companies made loans to a director (Shaik) without the prior consent of all the members or a special resolution. The State also accuses Shaik, who it alleges as a director made or authorised the loans unlawfully.
Count two is a charge of fraud.
The State claims that Shaik and his companies defrauded shareholders, directors, accountants and/or creditors of the Nkobi group and/or the South African Revenue Service by writing off R1 282 027 in loans to Zuma, Shaik, Clegton and Floryn Investments.
As an alternative charge to count two Shaik is charged with stealing the money from Nkobi.
If it fails to prove that, the State has charged Shaik with a second alternative crime of contravening the Income Tax Act and the Companies Act. The reasoning, according to the charge sheet, is that if the State can't prove that Shaik stole the money, it will say it was written off to evade tax.
If this fails, the State will allege that Shaik and his companies failed to keep proper accounting records which fairly represent their state of affairs, business and financial position or made false entries in their financial records.
The third count against Shaik is one of corruption. This is the charge dealing with Shaik allegedly procuring two bribe payments of R500 000 for Zuma in an effort to influence him to abuse his powers.
Shaik and his companies face alternative charges of money laundering and the acquisition, possession or use of proceeds of unlawful activities should the State fail to prove the main charge.
The trial is set to commence before Durban High Court Judge Hillary Squires on Monday. The bulk of today's proceedings are expected to be taken up by e.tv's application to broadcast the proceedings of the trial.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin and the Pretoria News.