The panel of judges – Alsa Bezuidenhout, Mahendra Chetty and Anton van Zyl – heard the application on 26 October 2020.
In Friday’s judgment, a copy of which Daily Maverick has seen, it was found there was a “reasonable and probable cause to believe” that Thales had participated in a “pattern of racketeering” with Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
The 34-page judgment consisted mostly of background on the case, setting out timelines and previous arguments.
“In the final analysis, it is clear in my view that sufficient information was placed before the National Director for Public Prosecutions (NDPP) on which they could rationally conclude that 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 Shaik, through a pattern of racketeering activity compromising the planned, ongoing, continuous or repeated participation or involvement in at least two Schedule 1 offences,” said Bezuidenhout, who wrote the judgment.
The full judgment was not read out in the motion court on Friday morning, with Judge Piet Koen taking just a few minutes instead to say the case was dismissed with costs.
It is unclear whether the company will be appealing the judgment. If not, the trial against Zuma (accused one) and Thales (accused two) will finally go ahead, probably in 2021.
Zuma faces one count of racketeering, two corruption, one of money laundering and 12 of fraud for allegedly receiving bribe money from Thales via Shaik.
Thales faces one count of racketeering, two of corruption and one of money laundering.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said after the partial judgment was delivered: “The NPA welcomes the decision of the High Court of South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg to dismiss the application of the French arms company Thales, challenging racketeering charges against it. We look forward to the criminal hearing.”
During the October application, advocate Barry Roux SC, acting for Thales, tried to persuade the judges there was no evidence it had taken part in racketeering activities.
The company had argued that it had a legitimate business relationship with Shaik.
Thales also contended it was unaware that Shaik was financing Zuma’s lifestyle via a corrupt “retainer”.
Thales secured a R2.6-billion contract as part of the German Frigate Consortium to provide combat suites for the South African Navy’s four MEKO class frigates as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package, known as the Arms Deal.
Intertwined into this deal were several politically connected black economic empowerment partners, including Shaik and his company, Nkobi Holdings.
Roux told the full bench in October that Thales’ submissions filed with the court showed there was no evidence connecting it to a racketeering charge along with Zuma.
In the criminal case both are facing, Thales is alleged to have paid off Zuma, via Shaik, for political support in securing the deal, and for protection from investigation and prosecution.
Zuma is accused of having benefited from 783 payments from Shaik, who in turn received some, if not all, of the money from Thales.