Arms dealer had Zuma in its pocket - report

2014-09-28 08:44
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Cape Town - Explosive documents obtained by the Sunday Times have revealed exactly how deep in the pockets of French arms dealer Thales were President Jacob Zuma and the ANC.

The newspaper reports how Thales' South African attorney and secret fixer, Ajay Sooklal, allegedly arranged flights, fancy clothes and lavish hotel stays in Europe for Zuma when he was facing corruption charges.

Zuma also allegedly used the code words "Eiffel Tower", which when translated meant "bribe".

The documents handed to the Sunday Times are transcripts of testimony given under oath before retired Judge Phillip Levinsohn at confidential arbitration hearings earlier this year in a fee dispute between Sooklal and Thales.

Sooklal claims he is owed R70m by Thales, which is willing to settle for R42m.

According to the newspaper, the transcripts claim that Zuma used the code word "Eiffel Tower" to accept a R500 000-a-year bribe from Thales in return for political protection and to secure future business; that Thales gave the ANC €1m (about R14m) shortly before the corruption trial and that Thales bankrolled Zuma and Sooklal to jet around the world to meet with witnesses ahead of the corruption trial.

In addition to this, the transcripts claim that Thales lobbied high-ranking ANC officials including former president Thabo Mbeki and even former French President Jacques Chirac to get the corruption charges dropped.

The company has since secured multi-million rand government contracts that include a R1.8bn rail signalling contract; a R100m electronic ticketing system for the Gautrain and a R95 air traffic control maintenance contract that was never put out to tender.

Charges dropped

As reported by News24, the arms deal controversy began in 1999 when arms deal whistleblower Patricia de Lille presented a dossier to Parliament containing numerous allegations of bribery in a multi-billion rand arms deal.

At the time de Lille was leader of the Independent Democrats.

Events over the years have included former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni being arrested for failing to declare a discount he received from an arms company on a Mercedes 4X4.

In 2005, Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted of corruption relating to the arms deal. Shortly afterwards Zuma himself was charged.

In September 2006, Judge Herbert Msimang struck Zuma's case off the roll.

Msimang said he had "no choice" after the prosecution said it was not ready to proceed. He said the State's case had "limped from one disaster to another".

In early 2008 the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) again reinstated charges accusing Zuma of accepting a R500 000 bribe from French arms company Thint.

In 2009 the NPA, after receiving representations from Zuma's lawyers, announced that charges against him will be dropped.

At the time, acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe said they showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma and so the case could not continue.
Read more on:    thales  |  jacob zuma  |  arms deal

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