'Thales believes it cannot obtain a fair trial' as it bids to have charges quashed

2019-05-19 15:38
Former president Jacob Zuma at the Durban high court where he is facing charges of corruption. Zuma appeared alongside Christine Guerrier, vice-president of litigation at Thales France. (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Former president Jacob Zuma at the Durban high court where he is facing charges of corruption. Zuma appeared alongside Christine Guerrier, vice-president of litigation at Thales France. (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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The application for a permanent stay of prosecution by former President Jacob Zuma's co-accused and French arms company, Thales, in relation to the dubious multi-billion rand arms deal will be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court over the next four days.

"Bearing in mind the very long delay of this procedure – through no fault of Thales at all – together with a range of factors beyond its control, Thales believes it cannot obtain a fair trial, as it is entitled to under the South-African Constitution and international law," the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Thales also maintained its hands and those of its employees were clean.

"Thales reiterates that it has no knowledge of any transgressions having been committed by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract for the combat systems for South Africa's corvettes (the Arms Deal in 1999). 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 statement reads.

Its application for a permanent stay of prosecution made in November 2018 was their bid to "review and set aside the decision to 're-institute' the prosecution against the company, and for a permanent stay due to the long delay by the prosecution in the proceedings".

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The company, accused number two in the case after Zuma, is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and one of money laundering.

Zuma is facing 16 charges: one of racketeering, one of money laundering, two of corruption and 12 of fraud. The former president allegedly received money from Thales through his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik.

'Violation of right to  a fair trial'

The case involved 783 dubious payments Zuma allegedly received in connection with the arms deal. 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.

Zuma has also followed Thales with an application to have charges against him quashed.

In its application papers, Thales argued that a permanent stay of prosecution against it "constitutes just and equitable constitutional relief in the circumstances".

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

In a statement after filing its application last year, 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."


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