South Africa | State v Thales: Arms company questions evidence it 'participated' in Shaik, Zuma 'bribes'

Judgment in the review application of racketeering charges against French arms company Thales was reserved in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday.

Appearing before Judges Mahen Chetty, Anton Van Zyl, and AJ Bezuidenhout, and acting for Thales, Advocate Barry Roux said the arms company distanced itself from racketeering charges that former President Jacob Zuma faces.

He said the State had erred in its decision to charge Thales in the alleged 783 corrupt payments made to Zuma from Shaik.

Roux argued there was no evidence that Thales had any knowledge of the alleged bribes. He said the prosecution and national director of public prosecutions did not properly peruse the full docket.

He said Thales was being held responsible for payments made to Zuma they were not part of.

"They must conduct or participate in it. Actual participation is required. When you look at the state's application, it clear[ly] stated there was [not] enough to rely on awareness of bribes. Even if there was awareness, they never entertained the notion that it must be participation.

"Bribery or money laundering must be through an enterprise, you must do it consciously."

READ | Thales court challenge will effectively be a 'dry run' of Zuma, French arms company's trial

Roux also addressed a forensic report commissioned by the State that was part of the Shaik criminal trial.

Shaik is currently a free man, but was found guilty on two counts of corruption and one count of fraud, on 2 June 2005 with Judge Hilary Squires stating in his 165-page verdict that there was "overwhelming" evidence of a corrupt relationship between Shaik and Zuma.

Shaik served two years and four months in prison before he was released on medical parole in 2009.

Roux stated there was no direct evidence linking Thales to Zuma.

"Nowhere will you find any reference to any evidence or even a submission by the forensic expert on behalf of the State that Thales was aware of these payments.

"Nowhere will you find it in the Shaik submission or the Supreme Court of Appeal that Thales was aware of the payments and they deal with the same matter. We want one witness, statement or document. We are still waiting."

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Advocate Wim Trengrove for the State maintained their consistent argument that they did not rely on direct evidence, but rather leaned on circumstantial proof.

He said it was not a case of merely awareness of bribes.

"It is not mere awareness, they were aware of retainer payments, then they joined in. They did two things, they agreed to pay money to bribe Zuma to frustrate the investigation into their own corruption. That makes them an accessory after the fact."

Trengrove added that them buying into an "ongoing retainer" proved their participation.

"That made them an accomplice by common purpose. It is participation in the attempt to conceal past bribes paid."

He said the alleged money laundering did not take place immediately.

"It took a long time to get the French to pay the money. It happened almost a year later."

He said funds were concealed as "clean money" but that the moment it was paid over to Zuma, it became a bribe.

"The moment you pay it over, it becomes the proceeds of crime. It became dirty money when it was used for a bribe."

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