Too many years have passed since the crime was committed and the start of this trial, and this has made it virtually “impossible” to locate some of the players involved in the alleged bribing of former president Jacob Zuma, argued French arms company Thales.
The company, co-accused along with Zuma, made these submissions before the Pietermaritzburg division of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court where it appeared, facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering linked to 783 payments that the French company allegedly made to Zuma in connection with the infamous arms deal of 1999.
“It is not hard but impossible to trace some of the individuals allegedly involved in the bribery because of the delay by the National Prosecuting Authority and the irrational and misguided decisions of its former boss Shaun Abrahams,” argued Advocate Anton Katz.
Zuma’s legal team informed the court that Alain Thétard (a representative of the arms company) had since died.
Thétard’s evidence could have proved a pivotal turning point for the accused and/or the state.
The crucial issue for the state may well have been whether it can prove that Zuma met with Thétard on the day the alleged bribe was agreed on.
This could have well shed light on the alleged meeting with Zuma in which he is alleged to have confirmed the bribe by stating: “I see the Eiffel Tower lights are shining today.”
Advocate Mushahida Adhikari, also representing Thales, argued that some of the former employees who were accused of paying the bribes have since left the company while one has been diagnosed with alzheimer’s disease
During his trial, Zuma’s onetime financial advisor Schabir Shaik testified that a meeting between himself, Zuma and the arms company representative took place on March 10 2000, but for a completely innocuous purpose.
Katz argued that because of the “knee-jerk, hellbent, status quo decisions” by officials in the NPA and Abrahams’ decision to willy-nilly “prosecute, drop the charges and later reinstate them” has led to the current situation where key witnesses cannot be located or have died.
He informed the court that there were other reasons why they are requesting a permanent stay of prosecution, but this was the basis of his client’s argument.