French arms firm ‘must face SA corruption trial’

French arms supplier Thales will have to face charges in South Africa (SA) over allegedly corrupt payments made to former President Jacob Zuma, a court has ruled.

The judgment removes the last hurdle for national prosecutors to bring a case against Mr Zuma relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal in the 1990s.

His trial on six charges of corruption, including counts of fraud, racketeering and money-laundering is due to start next month.

The former president, who denies the allegations, is alleged to have sought bribes from Thales to support an extravagant lifestyle.

His financial adviser at the time was found guilty of soliciting those bribes in 2005, leading to Mr Zuma’s dismissal as deputy president.

But the original charges against Mr Zuma were controversially dropped shortly before the 2009 elections which saw him become president.

He eventually resigned as president under political pressure in February 2018 in the face of numerous corruption allegations.

Judge Alsa Bezuidenhout said there was reasonable and probable cause to believe that Thales had “directly or indirectly or with common purpose, participated in the enterprise run by Mr Schabir Shaik through a pattern of racketeering activity”, the Times Live website reports.

Thales South Africa, which denies the allegations, told the AFP news agency that it had “noted” the high court’s decision and was “studying the judgment to consider its legal options”. -AFP

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