Thales wants corruption charges dropped

Two local subsidiaries of French defence giant Thales has filed papers in the Pietermaritzburg High Court for a permanent stay of prosecution on charges of corruption, arguing this is in the interests of justice as the companies cannot have a fair trial.
Advocates for Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) (Pty) Limited, and Thint (Pty) Limited told the court it would be impossible for the two entities to have a “fair trial” because there was a perception that the Supreme Court of Appeal was already “convinced of their guilt” before their trial could even take place, the SA Press Association and SABC report. 
The two Thints are co-accused in a case also involving African National Congress president Jacob Zuma. The trio faces 18 charges of racketeering, corruption, tax evasion, fraud and money laundering.

Thint, [short for Thales International] allegedly offered to pay Zuma R500 000 a year for two years in exchange for protection from investigations into the country’s multi-billion rand arms deal.

The payment was, according to charges faced by the company, allegedly facilitated by Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik. None of the accused has yet pleaded to the charges.

Zuma is expected to file his own application for a permanent stay of prosecution in the same court on 18 May.

In the notice of motion, counsel for Thint said the decision by the National Director of Public Prosecutions to re-indict Thint was “unconstitutional and invalid”.

The company also wanted to interdict the state “from proceeding with the prosecution of the second and third accused on “any other charges which might arise out of… the charges…”.

The papers were accompanied by affidavits from Pierre Moynot, the managing director and chief executive officer of both subsidiaries, Christine Guerrier, Alain Thetard, Robert Driman and Advocate Ajay Sooklal.

Referring to extracts from the judgment of an appeal that came before the Supreme Court of Appeal on September 25, 2006, Moynot said there was a reasonable perception “created in the minds of the second and third accused [the two Thints] that the SCA is already convinced of their guilt, and has effectively convicted them in their absence, despite their trial… not yet having commenced, and that it would be impossible for this Honourable Court to disabuse its mind of the… findings by the SCA”.

He said the state in the SCA judgment “proved that Thomson[CSF]” [Thales` former identity] corruptly offered “to give a benefit which was not legally due to a person, being Zuma…”.
“The state, therefore, proved that Thomson committed an offence…” and was “guilty of these offences”, Moynot said.
“Accordingly, it is submitted the second and third accused`s fair trial rights have been infringed in a most serious fashion and it will be impossible for them to receive a fair trial,” he continued.

Part of the infringement arose from “a breach by the state” of an agreement concluded between the state and Thint (Pty) Limited.

Another infringement to a fair trial arose “out of what has transpired in relation to the [Schabir] Shaik matter,” Moynot said in his affidavit.

He stressed that the allegations of corruption were also “mischievously used” and had affected both Thint groups, which fell under the Thales international group.

Search and seizures carried out on the homes of some of its employees had resulted in “widespread negative publicity both in South Africa and abroad”.
“The reputations of the parent company, Thales International in Paris, and its subsidiaries and associated companies in South Africa, Mauritius and in other parts of the world came under the spotlight and, as a result, became severely and adversely affected.
“The allegations of corruption with which the searches, seizures and investigations were associated seriously affected some of the business endeavours of the accused… particularly in relation to the submission of tenders.”

Thint also wants the state to pay the costs of the application.

According to the timetable agreed upon on in February, the state will only file its responding papers to Thint’s application on 4 May.
Oral arguments have been set for 24 and 25 August.