Ex-South African President’s Graft trial postponed

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After the High Court rejected his application for a permanent stay of prosecution related to a US$2.5 billion deal with a French arms manufacturer, judges postponed on Tuesday the former South African president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial until February next year, the South African Government News Agency announced.

In what some say is the longest-running legal saga of our time, Zuma, who was president from 2009 to 2018 will face 16 charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and one count of money laundering, including the “arms deal’’ case from 1999 when Zuma, as a deputy president, was allegedly receiving bribes from arms manufacturer Thales.

The decision to postpone the trial came after Zuma’s legal team announced that they will appeal last week’s dismissal of application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

“Mr Zuma would like to exercise the full extent of his constitutional rights, which includes the right to appeal,” Zuma’s lawyer Thabani Masuku told the court.

The court agreed with Zuma’s team, adding that the start of the trial next February is best for both parties. The former President’s team has until November 1 to  appeal Friday’s court ruling.

“The appeal against last week’s application by Zuma can only be heard before a full bench and the earliest this can happen is November 22,” Billy Downer, the State’s Attorney said.

At the end, both sides agreed on February 4, 2020 as the date the trial will start.

Zuma’s team added that the former President has been prepared to face court for the past 14 years.

Indictments against the 77-year-old were filed more than 10 years ago but were dropped shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.

However, in 2016, the National Prosecuting Authority announced that they consider they had sufficient evidence to press charges.

In 2018, Zuma was forced to resign by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party amid separate allegations of corruption linked to the infamous Guptas, a wealthy Indian-born family whose members were on Thursday sanctioned by the US Treasury for bribery, funding political contributions and influencing the actions of the South African government.

The court also granted the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) application to strike out some of the allegations Zuma made against it in an affidavit.

The court called his claims ‘’scandalous and vexatious’’.

Zuma gave no statements and his legal team thinks that there has been political interference in his prosecution.

Thales also announced it will apply for a permanent stay of prosecution. The company has been accused of paying Zuma a yearly R500,000 ($33,839) bribe in order not to allow an investigation into the multi-million arms deal.

The alleged bribe was covered up Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was sentenced in 2005 to 15 years for corruption.

OCCRP | October 15th, 2019
https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/10885-ex-south-african-president-s-graft-trial-postponed