Jacob Zuma is seen in court.
- French arms company Thales is a co-accused in Jacob Zuma’s fraud and corruption case.
- Thales was attempting to have the racketeering charge it faces scrapped from the matter.
- The State is now one step closer to bringing the matter to trial.
The KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg has dismissed with costs French arms company Thales’ bid to challenge the racketeering charge it faces along with former president Jacob Zuma.
The case brought by Thales, which is being represented by Oscar Pistorius’ former defence advocate Barry Roux, represented the only barrier standing in the way of Zuma’s long-awaited trial actually proceeding.
Thales has yet to comment on the decision. Should it elect not to appeal, the Zuma and Thales corruption case could start as early as April this year.
It is the State’s case that Thales agreed to pay Zuma a R500 000-a-year bribe, in exchange for his “political protection” from any potential investigation of South Africa’s multibillion-rand arms deal. Thales, then known as Thompson-CSF, had scored a R2.6-billion contract to provide four navy frigates to SA’s government in 1997, as part of that deeply controversial R60 billion deal.
Zuma’s financial advisor Schabir Shaik’ s company Nkobi had been chosen by Thales as its black empowerment partner in SA after alleged lobbying by Zuma. Shaik was convicted in 2005 of having brokered that deal as part of his corrupt relationship with Zuma.
The NPA is now pursuing Zuma and Thales for racketeering, a charge usually reserved for the prosecution of organised crime, and is pursued against individuals and entities embroiled in an organised criminal enterprise. It carries with it a 25-year jail sentence.
In a brief statement on Friday morning, the NPA said it welcomed the court’s decision.
“We look forward to the criminal hearing,” the statement ended.
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