The French arms company Thales, which on Monday will go on trial with former president Jacob Zuma, says it is unaware of any transgressions by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract for the combat systems for South Africa’s arms deal entered into in 1999.
The company, through a statement released on Sunday - a day before the scheduled trial commences at the Pietermaritzburg division of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court - revealed that it does not believe it can obtain a fair trial.
Thales argued that the circumstances of the case, which dates back a decade, meant a fair trial could not be possible.
“Bearing in mind the very long delay of this procedure – through no fault of Thales at all – together with a range of factors beyond its control, Thales believes it cannot obtain a fair trial, as it is entitled to under the SA constitution and international law,” the statement reads.
The company went on to argue that it had “no knowledge of any transgressions having been committed by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract for the combat systems for SA’s corvettes (the arms deal in 1999).
“Thales respects the law, has a zero-tolerance policy on corruption and has co-operated fully with the local authorities at all times, and will continue to do so,” read the statement.
The company along with co-accused former president Jacob Zuma applied for a permanent stay of prosecution, arguing that there has been an unreasonably long delay in getting the case to trial and political conspiracy and interference at the NPA leading to the prosecution of the company and the former president.
The company is accused of conspiring with Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, to pay the then deputy president R500 000 a year as a bribe in exchange for protection during an investigation linked to the arms deal.
Shaik was sentenced to 15 years, served two years and then was released on medical parole after being found guilty of paying R1.2 million to Zuma, over a period of seven years.