Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2006-05-16 Reporter: Mariette Le Roux Reporter: Sapa

Court Leaves Thint in Suspense



Business Day

Date 2006-05-16


Mariette Le Roux, Sapa

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Durban - The Durban High Court reserved judgment on Friday in a bid by arms company Thint for immediate further particulars on the corruption charges it is to face alongside former deputy president Jacob Zuma.

Thint and Thint Holdings are accused numbers two and three in the pending corruption trial.

They filed papers in the Durban High Court last month seeking to compel the prosecution to make available further particulars on the indictment.

The first accused, Zuma, was listed as an interested party in the Thint application.

“Argument was heard today, and the judge reserved judgment,” prosecuting advocate Anton Steynberg said on Friday afternoon.

Judgment is likely to be given next week.

The prosecution contends that it is unable to provide further particulars until it has finalised the indictment.

This it could do only once litigation brought by the applicants, contesting the legality of search warrants used to obtain evidence in the case, was completed, it said.

In order to complete the final indictment, the prosecution needed clarity as to what evidence it could rely on.

Provisional indictments have been served on Thint and Zuma ahead of the trial, due to get under way on July 31.

In its heads of argument the state contended on Friday that numerous legal challenges brought by the applicants, contesting the execution of the search warrants, were preventing the state from completing its probe.

“The inevitable result of this is that the state is not in a position to provide the ‘final’ indictment, nor can the forensic accountants complete their report which, as in the (Schabir) Shaik trial, will form the cornerstone of the state’s case.”

Zuma, who was acquitted of rape this week, has been charged in line with a finding in the high court that he had a “generally corrupt” relationship with Shaik, his financial adviser.

Additional charges of fraud and tax exemption have been added to his charge sheet.

Shaik is appealing his fraud and corruption conviction.

The two Thint companies are South African subsidiaries of French arms dealer Thales.

They stand accused of offering Zuma a R500000-a-year bribe in exchange for his silence during an investigation of the country’s multibillion-rand arms acquisition programme.

In convicting Shaik, the Durban High Court found last year that the money had been a bribe.

The state’s heads of argument accused the applicants of seeking to prevent the prosecution from completing its investigation and trying to force it to go to trial on the basis of a provisional indictment, based in essence on the state of investigation as at September 2002.

“It simply makes no sense to insist on further particulars on an indictment that is almost certainly going to be amended substantially.

“It would not be in the interests of justice, and the state cannot be compelled in the circumstances to provide further particulars in respect of an incomplete investigation,” it said.

The state denied that it was drawing out the legal process.

The scope of its investigation, which started in 2000, was broadened to include Zuma only in October 2002, the document says.

Some of the offences are alleged to have continued until “at least 2005.

In this sense, the investigation is not old, and it has not taken too long.”

The state could not be compelled to halt its investigations and abandon what evidence has been obtained through a premature order for further particulars.

It rejected the applicants’ accusation of mala fides, and their complaints that they would not have enough time to prepare for the trial should the further particulars not be forthcoming at this stage.

Various factors militated strongly against the trial being able to proceed on July 31, in any event, the state said.

“To compel the state in the present circumstances to provide further particulars in respect of an incomplete investigation on an acknowledged incomplete indictment would effectively be to rule that the state must abandon all opposition to the search (warrant) applications, which are all unresolved.”

With acknowledgement to Mariette Le Roux, Sapa and Business Day.