Paper outlines Mac money trail

2011-11-25 12:41

A trail of alleged bribes paid to presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj and his wife Zarina was detailed in the weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper today.

The front page headline “The case against Mac” was in stark contrast to last Friday’s page one, which read “Censored: A buried trail of lies”.

Large sections of copy inside last Friday’s newspaper had been blacked out “following threats of legal action by Maharaj”, the newspaper said today in an explanation of its “legal fight-back”.

It had wanted to publish information which it claimed proved that Maharaj lied in an inquiry called by the now disbanded Scorpions over allegations that, during his time as transport minister from 1994 to 1999, he received kickbacks from French arms and technology company Thales International.

Maharaj has since brought criminal action against the newspaper and the reporters who wrote the article. The matter is being investigated by the Hawks.

According to the newspaper, the Maharajs received a series of “benefits” linked to convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik which were apparently intended as bribes.

However, it reported, prosecutors “saw difficulty” proving that they had corrupt intentions in accepting them.

In Maharaj’s favour was that he had played no formal role in adjudicating on the two main tenders from which Shaik’s Nkobi group benefited – for the bar-coded national drivers’ licences and the N3 toll road.

The allegations centre on the tender processes for licence project, which predated the advent of democracy in 1994, and the toll road project.

The benefits allegedly included a trip to Disney World, payments of millions into his bank account and that of his wife, and the importing of a marble table.

The M&G suggested that Shaik could have been repaying money that had gone missing during the struggle era, when he and Maharaj were conduits for ANC money.

However, it wrote: “If Maharaj personally provided funds for the ANC and was later repaid by Shaik, there should be no reason for this not to be disclosed.”

The M&G reported that matter was closed by then acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe in 2008 or 2009.

“It seems the Scorpions were never able to obtain any evidence indicating that Maharaj had exercised any influence over the awarding of contracts to Shaik, given that the decisions were taken by independent bodies, such as the state tender board in the case of the driver’s licence contract,” the newspaper wrote.

Maharaj’s response to the newspaper will be published shortly.

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