Thales lawyer distances company from Zuma

Former President Jacob Zuma appearing at Pietermaritzburg High Court for corruption charges, 20 May 2019, after his battle for the court to grant him permanent stay of prosecution on the charges related to the multi -billion rand arms deal. Picture: Nigel Sibanda.

Advocate Anton Katz argued that the French company’s charges were only reinstated because the former president’s were.

The lawyer representing multinational French arms company Thales, advocate Anton Katz, began to make his closing arguments at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

Like former president Jacob Zuma, the case’s co-accused, Thales, wants a permanent stay of prosecution that would bring legal proceedings relating to its role in the hugely controversial arms deal which took place in 1999.

Katz said that arguing for a permanent stay of prosecution is a “radical” legal move that will have “far-reaching” consequences but added that he felt it was “appropriate and just” in the context of this case.

According to the advocate, the cause of the delay in the matter was the decision in 2009 to drop the charges against Zuma in 2009, made by then NPA head Mokotedi Mphse.

Katz argued that the decision by former national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams to reinstate charges against Thales was “unlawful and irrational”.

He added that some of those involved in alleged bribery at the company were difficult to trace at this point due to the amount of time that had passed, and that one of the accused, Alain Thetard, had passed away.

“Will a trial against Thales be fair? Thales can’t obtain fair trial given the facts of this case,” he said.

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He also distanced himself from Zuma, saying he believed that Thales was being tried simply because Zuma’s charges had been reinstated.

“Each accused is to be determined on its own facts and circumstances. Thales is independent of Mr Zuma, Mr Zuma is independent of Thales, and when you consider Thales, you consider Thales’ facts and circumstances, not Mr Zuma’s. When you consider Zuma, you consider Zuma and not Thales,” he said.

He said that while the former president was arguing that he had “suffered prejudice”, Thales would not make the same submission.

This led to Zuma’s lawyer, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, to rise and call for Katz not to “argue my case”, adding that he had “mischaracterised” it.

Earlier, Katz admitted that he may have “tested the patience of the bench”.

In response, Judge Poyo-Dlwati advised him to stop making the same argument “over and over” and to stop ruining his argument by “interrupting” himself.

Following an adjournment for lunch, another of Thales’ lawyers, advocate Mushahida Adhikari, took over from Katz in arguing for a permanent stay of prosecution for their client.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)

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