'In the end, Mr Shaik bribed Mr Zuma'
It was not cruel to make Schabir Shaik forfeit more than R30-million in shares after “brashly using the prize” of Jacob Zuma to secure a business deal with an arms company, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.
Advocate Wim Trengove argued this during Shaik’s court application to have his assets returned.
“The stripping of the proceeds of crime is to show criminals that you do crime at your peril,” said Trengove, adding it was not unfair “double punishment” if criminals knew that if they invested in crime, they would lose their investment.
“In the end, Mr Shaik bribed Mr Zuma for his protection, and intervention and political influence,” he said.
The court heard that Zuma attended a meeting in London in July 1998 with Thomson France when Shaik discovered that instead of the South African subsidiary of Thomson—with which his company Nkobi had a partnership—buying into defence company African Defence Systems (ADS), the French company bought it instead.
Shaik objected because this went against an agreement to which the South African subsidiary and Shaik’s company had agreed, and threatened to take legal action. The intention of the agreement was for the companies to be involved in South African business with South African partners.
Shaik discovered that the company had concerns about his black empowerment credentials and that Yusuf Surtee, who had sought to be Thomson’s local partner instead of Shaik and Nkobi, had made adverse statements about him.
Shaik sent a fax to the head of Thomson France, saying that Zuma was extremely concerned about the conduct of the group in South Africa, and requested a meeting in Durban to address these concerns. He copied the letter to President Thabo Mbeki, then the president of the African National Congress (ANC), and to Zuma, then the deputy.
“Shaik loudly, brashly and prominently used Zuma as a carrot to persuade Thomson to go into business with him,” said Trengove.
Shaik discussed the matter with Zuma and asked him to “redress these ill-conceived views” that he was an unsuitable empowerment partner.
Shaik, Thomson France head Jean-Paul Perrier and Zuma met in London on July 2 1998 at the British Department of Defence offices to smooth over the empowerment hitch while, according to court papers, Zuma was in the country in his official capacity as deputy president of the ANC.
Later, the shares in ADS were transferred to the South African company.
Shaik’s lawyer Martin Brassey argued earlier that Zuma had attended this meeting as a friend of Shaik’s when he heard about the problem, and a friend could not have refused.
“What kind of friend would he be?” Brassey said.
He said that because Zuma did not take the stand at Shaik’s trial, it was not possible to know what his real intent was when attending that meeting.
In Shaik’s judgement, Judge Hilary Squires said that between October 1995 and September 2002 Shaik or one of his companies made 238 payments totalling about R1,3-million to Zuma in return for his name and influence in his business enterprises.
Brassey said that confiscating more than R30-million in shares because of one meeting was disproportionate to the “pot” of deals that Shaik had been working on, and that no more than R1-million would be more appropriate.
Judgement was reserved.—Sapa