Thales has denied allegations that fixer Ajay Sooklal facilitated a R500 000 a year bribe for President Jacob Zuma and arranged perks for him when he faced corruption charges linked to the arms deal, according to Defenseweb.com.
The Sunday Times on Saturday published an article based on documents it obtained which apparently detail Sooklal’s activities as a lawyer and secret fixer for Thales over six years. The newspaper said the documents are transcripts of testimony given under oath before retired Judge Phillip Levinsohn at confidential arbitration hearings earlier this year regarding a dispute between Sooklal and Thales. Sooklal alleges he is owed R70 million in outstanding fees - Thales has offered him R42 million.
According to the Sunday Times report on the transcripts, Zuma accepted a R500 000 a year bribe from Thales in return for political protection from the arms deal probe and to secure future business and Thales gave former ANC treasurer Mendi Msimang a cheque for a million euros in April 2006 to be paid into an ANC-aligned trust before the company was due to stand trial for corruption regarding Zuma.
Thint, Thales’s South African subsidiary, won a R2.6 billion contract to supply combat suites to the South African Navy’s four Meko class frigates procured in the 1999 ‘arms deal’.
“In these articles, Mr Sooklal refers to a case that dates back to 1999 and in which no charges exist against Thomson-CSF International,” Thales said in response. “Thales denies in the most categorical manner these allegations, which call for no further comment…Thales reserves the right to take legal action in order to defend its interests.”
The company added that if requested, it will “offer its full cooperation to the relevant South African authorities and in particular the Sereti [sic] commission.”
Opposition Democratic Alliance party MP and shadow defence minister David Maynier requested Judge Will Seriti subpoena Sooklal to give evidence before the Arms Procurement Commission. The Commission’s advocate Fanyana Mdumbe said, “The commission will endeavour to obtain the transcript of the arbitration proceedings, peruse it and decide on the course of action to take.”