Zuma corruption case: Thales wants charges quashed

French arms company Thales, which has been charged along with former president Jacob Zuma in his corruption case, is seeking a permanent stay of prosecution so the charges against it can be reviewed and set aside.

Thales lodged the application with the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban.

"Thales submits that a permanent stay of prosecution against it constitutes just and equitable constitutional relief in the circumstances," according to court papers.

"In this application Thales' cause of action is the violation of its right to a fair trial on the basis of both its right to have any trial against it begun and concluded without unreasonable delay and its right to adduce and challenge evidence," reads the application.

This comes after lawyers for both the company and Zuma told the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg in July that they were preparing applications for a permanent stay of prosecution.

According to Thales they are challenging the validity of the prosecution and the unreasonable delay in the prosecution.

'Charges withdrawn in 2009'

The company argues that the prosecution has not followed its own protocols.

In a statement on Thursday, Thales spokesperson Cédric Leurquin said that while the arms company was charged with serious criminal offences, it had a right to a fair trial.

"One of the principal reasons for Thales' contentions as to why the 'reinstitution' of charges holds no validity is that criminal charges against the company were withdrawn in 2009 and this action was not challenged or set aside by any court".

He said Thales argued that since the charges were validly withdrawn, the prosecution has not followed its own protocols.

"In relation to the renewal of prosecution, Thales cites that the prosecution is required to act procedurally and substantively in a rational and fair manner – the company says that this has not been done."

Leurquin said Thales had no knowledge of any transgressions committed by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract for the 1999 arms deal.

NPA believes 'successful prosecution' reasonably likely

"Thales respects the law, has a zero-tolerance policy on corruption and has cooperated fully with the local authorities at all times, and will continue to do so." 

The case involves 783 questionable payments Zuma allegedly received from the company in connection with the arms deal.

In 1997, Thales won a R2.6bn stake in South Africa's R60bn arms acquisition programme to supply combat systems for four frigates procured by the navy.

News24 reported earlier that Thales said that it did not believe it had a chance of a fair trial in South Africa.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) previously turned down representations by the arms company to withdraw charges against it.

"We believe there are reasonable prospects of [a] successful prosecution," NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku told News24 at the time.

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