Shaik asset seizure 'out of proportion', court told

The confiscation of “R30-million to R40-million”-worth of assets from Schabir Shaik following his fraud and corruption conviction was out of proportion to his “friend” Jacob Zuma’s intervention in one arms-deal dispute, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.

Shaik’s lawyer, Martin Brassey, said Zuma’s intervention at a meeting with Thomson France was only part of the “pot” of deals Shaik had with the company and its South African subsidiaries.

Brassey submitted that a figure of R1-million would be more appropriate. It was unfair to be confiscating the higher amount on top of Shaik’s 15-year sentence.

“We say, to be blunt, if you are going to do anything, don’t do more than R1-million,” Brassey said, adding that one intervention by Zuma was “grossly disproportionate” to the amount that was forfeited.

Zuma attended a meeting in London in 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, the French company bought it instead.

This went against an agreement that the South African subsidiary and Shaik’s company would benefit from the investment and potential arms deals.

Zuma went to the meeting to clarify Shaik’s black empowerment credentials, as the company had reservations, based on foreign beliefs that black empowerment was for “black indigenous” people only.

Brassey said Zuma did this as a friend of the Shaiks when he heard about the problem and could not have refused. “What kind of friend would he be?” he said.

He also said that because Zuma did not testify at Shaik’s trial, it was not possible to conclude that he attended the meeting for gain.

However, counsel for the state Wim Trengove rejected this argument.

“It would be odd for Shaik to pay so dearly that which he could have had for nothing,” he said. “In the end, Mr Shaik bribed Mr Zuma for his protection, and intervention and political influence.”

In his judgement on Shaik, 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.

Zuma was provincial minister for economic affairs in KwaZulu-Natal and deputy president of the ANC at the time.

Trengove said that the bribes got Shaik the benefit. “He didn’t, in fact, get it in an honest way.”—Sapa

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