South Africa

Thales SA must face racketeering charges, court rules

Thales has argued it was an 'unfortunate, unfair casualty' of the more than decade-long process to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma, who is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from the company.

Thales has argued it was an 'unfortunate, unfair casualty' of the more than decade-long process to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma, who is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from the company.
Image: REUTERS/CHARLES PLATIAU

Thales SA will have to face racketeering charges, the Pietermaritzburg high court ruled on Friday when it dismissed the French arms company’s review application.

“The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) welcomes the decision of the high court ... to dismiss the application of the French arms company Thales challenging racketeering charges against it. We look forward to the criminal hearing,” said NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema.

The criminal proceedings against former president Jacob Zuma and Thales has been set down for February 23.

In its review application, Thales argued it was an “unfortunate unfair casualty” of the more than decade-long process to prosecute Zuma, and that the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) lacked the evidence to charge it for allegedly participating in a scheme to bribe the former president in return for his influence and protection.

While Thales attempted to distance itself from the 783 corrupt payments made to Zuma by convicted Durban businessman Schabir Shaik, the NPA told the court Thales was not only aware that Shaik was financing the former president via a “retainer”, but worked with Shaik to bribe Zuma to protect the arms manufacturer from an investigation into the multimillion-rand arms deal.

In its heads of arguments, the state provided a lengthy history of the case against Thales and Zuma.

Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial arms deal.

The alleged bribe was facilitated by Shaik, who was Zuma’s former financial adviser.

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