Court Rejects Application in Zuma Corruption Case
Johannesburg - The Durban High Court has dismissed a bid by arms company Thint for further particulars on the corruption charges it is to face alongside former deputy president Jacob Zuma. “I can confirm that the application has been refused,” prosecuting advocate Anton Steynberg told Sapa on Monday.
However, Thint attorney Ajay Sooklal said the court’s decision amounted to a “postponement of the matter”. “The decision was deferred to the trial judge. There is no winner and there is no loser”. Thint and Thint Holdings, accused numbers two and three in the pending corruption trial, 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.
The prosecution contended it was unable to provide further particulars until it had 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.
To complete the final indictment, the prosecution needed to know what evidence it could rely on. Provisional indictments have been served on Thint and Zuma ahead of the trial, to start on July 31. The State contended that numerous legal challenges by the applicants -- contesting the execution of the search warrants -- were preventing it from completing its investigation.
“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, acquitted of rape last week, has been charged in line with a high court finding that he had a “generally corrupt” relationship with his financial adviser, Shaik.
The two Thint companies are South African subsidiaries of French arms dealer Thales, and are accused of offering Zuma a R500 000-a-year bribe in exchange for his silence during a probe into South Africa’s country’s multi-billion rand arms acquisition.
In convicting Shaik, the Durban High Court found last year the money had been a bribe. Shaik is taking the guilty verdict, which resulted in Zuma’s dismissal by President Thabo Mbeki, on appeal.
The State’s heads of argument in the hearing on the application for further particulars accused the applicants of seeking to prevent it from completing its investigation and forcing 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 substantially amended. “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.”
The State denied drawing out the legal process. The scope of its investigation, which started in 2000, was only broadened to include Zuma in October 2002, the document states. 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 applicant’s accusation of mala fides, and 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. “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 Sapa and The Citizen.