NPA finds Schabir Shaik made even more payments to Jacob Zuma - report

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Former president Jacob Zuma. (Getty Images)
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Getty Images)

The National Prosecuting Authority has discovered additional payments made to former president Jacob Zuma by his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, Business Day reported. 

According to that publication, this will require the NPA to update the forensic report into Zuma's finances in the former president's upcoming corruption trial.

Zuma and French arms company Thales are facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering for a series of alleged bribes paid to Zuma through Shaik, during the multibillion-rand arms deal in the late 1990s. Shaik was found guilty of fraud and corruption in June 2005 for irregularities surrounding the same matter, and sentenced to an effective 15 years behind bars.

The new revelations reportedly suggest the level of Zuma's dependence on benefactors for financial survival was more profound than originally thought.

Payments made 'out of friendship'

During his trial, Shaik argued that payments he had made to Zuma, totalling more than R1.2 million, were made out of friendship and camaraderie.

While the exact amount of the additional payments is unknown, lead Zuma prosecutor Billy Downer has reportedly confirmed, in a letter to Zuma's new attorney Eric Mabuza, that these have been included in a revised report on Zuma's finances by forensic investigator Johan van der Walt.

READ | Zuma's fraud trial postponed for 'inquiry' into his failure to appear in February

Van der Walt, the forensic auditor who was the main witness against Shaik, and who authored the reports into Shaik and Zuma, is coincidentally the same person fingered for his recalled report into allegations that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) was operating a so-called rogue unit, News24 reported. 

But that was a separate issue. In his judgment against Shaik in 2005, Judge Hilary Squires ruled: "Van der Walt was plainly an impartial witness who simply described chapter and verse, in extraordinary detail, the evidence that he culled from the mass of documents given to him to investigate."

According to Business Day, correspondence between Mabuza and Downer makes it clear that the State is determined to proceed with its fraud, corruption, racketeering and tax evasion case against Zuma and Thales as soon as possible.

Case postponed

Zuma's case before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg has been postponed to 23 June to allow for an inquiry into his failure to appear in court in February.

Zuma faces 16 charges, including racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering, while Thales faces two counts. The charges relate to 783 questionable payments Zuma allegedly received in connection with the controversial multi-billion-rand arms deal.

Another reason for the postponement was for Thales' application to the Constitutional Court. The arms company approached the apex court for leave to appeal the High Court's decision to dismiss its stay of prosecution application.

Last week, the Constitutional Court found that that the appeal should be dismissed with costs because "it lacks reasonable prospects of success".

The decision means that there are no more legal challenges standing in the way of the State, allowing it to commence with the now 15-year-old case against Zuma and Thales.

A third reason for the postponement was for "an inquiry in terms of Section 170 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act, No 51 of 1977 regarding Accused 1's (Zuma's) failure to appear at the hearing on 4 February 2020", the NPA said.

The court issued a stayed warrant of arrest for the former president after he failed to appear. At the time, Zuma's lawyers claimed he was ill and was receiving treatment abroad.

Zuma withdraws stay of prosecution bid

In April, Zuma's foundation announced that he had withdrawn his application to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the dismissal of his stay-of-prosecution application.

ALSO READ | Zuma withdraws stay of prosecution appeal bid - now he can prepare for his day in court

Zuma said he was preparing to "demonstrate that he has never benefited from any arms deal corruption or tried to evade the trial".

The State alleges that Zuma received the more than 780 payments, totalling just over R4 million, from Shaik and his Nkobi group of companies over a nine-year period, starting in 1996.

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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