Evidence on corruption overwhelming - Squires

Time of article published Jun 1, 2005

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By Wendy Jasson da Costa

Evidence of what the state claimed was a "generally corrupt" relationship between Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Durban businessman Schabir Shaik was overwhelming, Judge Hilary Squires said in the Durban High Court on Wednesday.

"The case is convincing and really overwhelming," Squires told the court as he finished weighing the evidence of count one of general corruption against Shaik.

In his summary, Squires said payments made to Zuma by Shaik constituted a benefit under the definition of corruption.

"Even if regarded as loans (as claimed by the defence) the basis on which they were made would in our view constitute a benefit," the judge said.

The testimony of Shaik's former employees - personal assistant Bianca Singh and director Themba Sono - was credible.

KPMG forensic auditor Johan van der Walt had explained in "chapter and verse what he had culled" from all the evidence available to him. His testimony was also credible even though he offered a few opinions during his lengthy stand in the witness box.

Squires said Shaik's former accountant Celia Bester had continuously pointed out and asked him questions about problems she encountered in his financial statements but she never got an answer.

Approaching the second half of his 165-page verdict, Squires painted a picture of a "mutually beneficial symbiosis" between Zuma and Shaik - who acted as the deputy president's financial adviser.

He said Shaik must have foreseen that if he made payments to and on behalf of Zuma, that Zuma would respond.

"He embarked on a never ending series of payments... because he realised the possible advantages to provide the means to remain in Zuma's good books and retain a lifestyle beyond what he (Zuma) could afford."

Shaik would only have made the payments if he was to get something in return, the judge said.

"Generosity on this sustained scale becomes egocentric."

As Squires outlined some of the issues which Shaik had been cross-examined on he said Shaik "had no scruples" and that his actions showed a "tendency to avoid an unwanted result".

However Squires pointed out that in a criminal trial "premium has to be placed on truth". He said Shaik was not an impressive witness.

In many cases his answers were long and irrelevant and he showed "flashes of candour".

This, the judge said "could have been the result of natural verbosity".

He said Shaik had no coherent answers in some cases. His performance as a witness on the whole was not impressive" said Squires. - Sapa

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