Chippy Shaik packs his bags
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Shamin "Chippy" Shaik, chief of acquisitions for the South African National Defence Force during the arms deal, and youngest brother in the well-known Shaik family, is packing for Perth.
Shaik, whose brother Schabir's application for leave to appeal against his conviction and 15-year sentence for fraud and corruption was heard by the Constitutional Court this week, has been accused in recent months of fleeing the country or going underground, lest he be charged for asking for a bribe from a German arms supplier.
He has also been accused of using more than one passport, "as though I were some kind of scumbag gun runner", and with the help of a group of academics, of plagiarising parts of his mechanical engineering doctoral dissertation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Shaik said he had decided to emigrate to Australia three years ago ("before I turned 45") and had applied for residence and looked for a job there.
But it was the most recent events - the re-emergence of allegations that he had been involved in an arms deal bribe and that he had cheated on his dissertation - that had made him decide that it was time to start his life again elsewhere.
"The situation in this country is toxic for me and my family," said Shaik on Friday at a coffee shop in Sandton's Mandela Square minutes before going into a board meeting, related to a mine in Mozambique, with his brother, Yunis, and other businessmen.
"And it has been this way for years. There has been an ongoing campaign against me, obviously as a result of Schabir's troubles. I don't need it. I especially don't need to live in a place where my two kids, aged 14 and 8, can open up the newspaper and see me being maligned and humiliated."
Shaik then hauled his passport out of his jacket pocket and said, "Here is my passport, by the way. Here is my Australian residence visa and here are my Mozambican visas. This is the only passport with which I travel. I had another passport which was full, which is why I was issued with a new one, and which is lying around somewhere.
"But what's the big deal? If I used it, it would come up at passport control as out of date or the official would see that it was full. Why this ongoing attempt at portraying me as some sort of lowlife who runs around with multiple passports?"
Shaik said his troubles began in the late 1990s when Patricia de Lille, then of the PAC, produced her infamous dossier which, among other things, implicated him in an arms deal bribe. But there had been a triple-agency government probe of the arms deal which found that the primary contracts in the arms deals were all legitimate and had also cleared him.
During the course of the investigations into him, Shaik had given a classified document to someone not allowed to see secret documents - his attorney - and was suspended from his post as chief of procurement for the SANDF. Shaik gave the attorney the document because he had been accused, among other things, of having had a "conflict of interests" (Schabir's company was one of the bidders for arms deal tenders) and he wanted the attorney to see factual evidence that he, Chippy, had no financial interest at all in Schabir's companies.
"But we got through that and then I resigned of my own free will. I had stayed in my job for two years while the investigation took place, I was cleared, I was never charged, and I left because I chose to do so.
"I had long before then told Mosiuoa Lekota, the Minister of Defence, my boss, that I wanted out. I wanted to leave for my sanity. I am a very private person and did not need that kind of nonsense in my life.
"But bang! What has happened in the media ever since then? I am said to have been suspended and fired because of the arms deal."
And then, said Shaik, the Der Spiegel report surfaced, alleging he had asked for a R21-million bribe related to the arms deal. At first he thought it was merely a replay of De Lille's original dossier, so didn't pay it much attention. But newspapers kept reprinting the allegation. "And I am willing to go on record about it. I want to say very clearly that I know f . . .-all, absolutely f . . .-all, about any bribe or any money. There is nothing else to say. I am not a policeman. I can't go and look in other people's accounts. That's for the authorities to do."
Regarding the charge that he cheated on his mechanical engineering doctoral thesis, "Development of higher-order theories for the analysis of laminated composite structures under static and thermal loading", at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Shaik took out a schedule procured this week from the university by Yunis. It accounted for every chapter in the dissertation, explaining on which journal articles each chapter was based. Shaik has been a co-author of every article.
"I'm not going to get into a slanging match in the newspaper. We all know where the story came from - it's from someone with an axe to grind. And if some newspaper decides to base a lying story on what that person says, so be it. It's just part of the ongoing campaign against me and my family.
"Consider when the article came out - in the week that Schabir's case was going before the Constitutional Court.
"I am not even interested in launching a defamation case, which my brother wants to do, and which we could easily win, because frankly, I don't care any more.
"Let the university do its investigation. There is nothing to hide. There was no cheating. Apparently, some pages were lost when my thesis was bound and there were some spelling mistakes. Let the university talk to the binder and the typist."
Shaik said the only wrong thing he had ever done in his life - and he took full responsibility for it - was to return to South Africa in the early 1990s from the United States where has was on a Fulbright scholarship at San Diego state university.
"'Come home,' my brothers said, 'and be party to the wonderful things that are going to happen in South Africa'. And what have I got from it? Was I ever thanked for the back-breaking work that I put in at the department of defence? Have I ever read anything decent about myself in the media? Have my children? No, I'm going. That's it."