FORMER Transport Minister Mac Maharaj and his wife Zarina have launched a desperate bid to extricate themselves from pending fraud, corruption, money-laundering and tax prosecutions.
City Press also established this week that the Maharaj family has launched, in addition to Pretoria High Court action, a parallel application in Switzerland to stop Scorpions investigators from using damning information about them obtained during an investigation into jailed mega-fraudster Schabir Shaik.
It is alleged Shaik paid the Maharaj family millions of rands in connection with a lucrative credit-card format driving licence contract and an N3 toll road contract. But when Scorpions investigators turned up the heat against the struggle hero and his wife, they had “no recollection” of what they were being asked about. They said:
Last week, City Press exposed a trail of money stashed in various undisclosed accounts in Britain, Switzerland and France.
Documents showed that Minderly Investments, a company Shaik had established offshore, had deposited two lump-sum payments of $100 000 and $111 111 into an account belonging to Zarina.
This week, City Press learned that the couple, who launched a Pretoria High Court battle against sections of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act they deem unconstitutional in November, also launched another court battle in Switzerland against the NPA.
In that action, Maharaj uses Swiss laws to argue that their Mutual Legal Assistance offices should not grant the NPA permission to use documents obtained during the Shaik investigation.
Maharaj also accused the NPA of subterfuge, saying they knew they were investigating him but chose not to make a direct application to access his records.
Instead, he claims, the NPA used channels already open in the investigation against Shaik to get information about him.
Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy dismissed the claims as baseless, arguing they bumped into information on Maharaj while investigating Shaik and, as investigators, they could not turn a blind eye.
The last batch of documents about this battle were filed with the Mutual Legal Assistance offices three months ago, but the matter had not yet been enrolled for arguments.
In terms of Swiss law, the office can decide to refuse or provide the documents if the matter is delayed indefinitely.
A source said yesterday that Maharaj’s strategy is clear.
“He uses all available avenues to challenge the NPA, and hopes to get lucky with whichever option that could help keep them at bay. Whilst within his rights to ward them off, and his constitutional challenge appears sound, we all know that a constitutional matter raised in the high court will take time to be heard, appealed against, and then referred to the Supreme Court of Appeal, reheard and, if lost, then ultimately taken to the overburdened Constitutional Court.
“The entire process could keep the Scorpions at bay for about four years, as was the case in the Tony Yengeni matter,” the source said.
Maharaj yesterday referred questions to his lawyer, Rudi Krause, despite being told Krause was on leave and uncontactable.
City Press understands investigators are focusing on unravelling the whereabouts of the R200 000 deposited in Milsek.
Maharaj and Zarina told investigators, according to the transcript, that they did not know where the money came from or who used it. This is despite Zarina and Maharaj’s two children being the only beneficiaries of the trust. The trustees are Mac, Zarina and a person only identified as Hannington.
The investigation, City Press has determined, has also sucked in Briton Lord Joel Joffe, who former Constitutional Court President Arthur Chaskalson described in a biography of Bram Fischer as a man of “near saintly qualities”.
Investigators want to establish payments received by the Maharajs from Joffe or the JG & VL Joffe Charitable Trust between November 1985 and June 2000. Joffe was at some point Maharaj’s special adviser.
Maharaj said during his interrogation that he consulted President Thabo Mbeki on the R650 million driving licence tender before awarding it to the Prodiba consortium, which Shaik had a 33% interest in.
The transcript records the former commander of the ANC’s Operation Vula claiming he has went to see the then deputy president (Mbeki) when his department had to chose between Prodiba and ID Cord Tebe.
“In fact, I went to the deputy president on this matter because I said to him there is going to be a war between the empowerment companies. Both are claiming, in public, that they have the patronage of the ANC, Tebe and Nkobi. So in my discussion with the deputy president he says ‘what do you think should be done?’,” Maharaj tells investigators, but does not say what Mbeki advised him to do.