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06 Oct 2017 00:00
Evidence suggests that Mac Maharaj received bribes from Shabir Shaik (Madeline Cronje)
Documents seen by the M&G have reopened questions regarding an investigation by the now-defunct Scorpions of presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj.
The documents include details of Maharaj’s evidence when questioned by the Scorpions in 2003 about a series of payments he received from Schabir Shaik.
They suggest Maharaj lied repeatedly about benefits obtained via Shaik— most notably two payments of 600,000 French Francs (totaling roughly R1-million at the time) laundered through a Swiss bank account held by Shaik.
In 2003, before the existence of the French payments was known, Maharaj and his wife Zarina formally denied receiving any foreign payments from or via Shaik and did not disclose the existence of the Swiss bank account where Zarina received them.
Circumstantial factors suggest the money came from Shaik’s French partner, defense company Thomson-CSF, now renamed Thales.
Shaik was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, including for his role in an agreement by Thales to pay Zuma to secure the then deputy- president’s protection and support. He was later released on “medical parole”.
Thales had an interest in several projects under the department of transport, where Maharaj was then minister, but no evidence emerged that Maharaj had played a role in the awarding of contracts.
These included the barcode card drivers license contract awarded to Prodiba – in which Thales and Shaik’s Nkobi Group each had a 33% share.
The timing of the French payments via Switzerland are highly suggestive that they related to the drivers licence tender.
The first, on October 11 1996, was made just seven days after the formal award of the contract.
The second payment, on March 11 1997, took place just under two weeks after the transport department and the consortium involving Thales and Shaik’s company signed the contract.
The flow of funds was detailed in a December 2004 document from the Swiss district attorney’s office, delivered in response to a Scorpions request for foreign judicial assistance.
The M&G has also seen details of other benefits paid by Shaik totaling about R400,000 which the Scorpions did not believe was reasonably possibly all received in payment for consulting work done for Shaik by Zarina – as the Maharajs had claimed.
The NPA was also aware of evidence showing Shaik’s company picked up the tab for a Maharaj family holiday in Disney World, as well as payments to a Maharaj family trust, the Milsek Trust.
The Disney trip and Milsek payments were revealed by the Sunday Times in 2003, leading to an investigation by FirstRand, where Maharaj was a director since he left Cabinet in 1999.
The bank could find no evidence of corruption, but Maharaj resigned.
When Maharaj became aware of the Swiss information he launched applications in early 2007 in South Africa and Switzerland to challenge the disclosure of the Swiss banking information to the Scorpions.
It is not clear what happened to the cases. By the end of 2007, Zuma had defeated Mbeki at Polokwane and the Scorpions were on the back foot.
Responding to questions this week, the National Prosecuting Authority said: “As far as our prosecutors who were involved in the matter, the matter was closed at the time Advocate Mokotedi Mpshe was acting NPA head and they are not aware of any other investigation.”
Maharaj was sent detailed questions, but merely raised issues around the source of M&G investigation.
He noted: “With reference to your reliance on the record of the inquiry held in terms of section 28 of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, kindly advise from whom, when and under what circumstances you obtained the said record.”
Although Mac Maharaj has denied that he received any offshore payments from Schabir Shaik, the evidence shows he did.
In his section 28 interview by the Scorpions in 2003, Maharaj was asked whether he or his wife were account holders of any overseas bank accounts during the period 1995 to 2000.
He answered: “Yes. An account with Allied Dunbar International, which had been opened around 1977/1980, when we were living in Zambia. This account was closed around 2000.”
Maharaj was also asked whether he had knowledge of any payments made by Shaik or anyone on his behalf during the period 1995 to 2000 into any overseas accounts held by him and/or his wife.
He replied: “None.”
His wife, Zarina Maharaj, also submitted a statement, saying: “As far as I recall, no funds were deposited into my overseas accounts by the above.”
Contrary to this, evidence supplied to the Scorpions by the Swiss judicial authorities in 2004 showed:
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