S African president says no corruption found in arms deal

South African President Jacob Zuma says no evidence of corruption found in investigation of '1995 arms deal'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

President Jacob Zuma speaks during the official launch of the eChannel Pilot Project of the Department of Home Affairs in Midrand, Johannesburg, April 7, 2016.

South African President Jacob Zuma said that no evidence of corruption or fraud was found in the investigation of a major arms deal arranged by the government in 1995.

The arms deal of 30 billion rand ($2.1 billion) was made in 1991. The South African Air Force (SAAF) replaced the Cheetah trainers with European military equipment that was made in 1991, when Zuma was serving as deputy president.

"No evidence was found as well through the Commission's own independent inquiries," President Zuma said on television, on Thursday.

Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s former financial adviser, was found guilty and jailed in 2005 of trying to solicit bribes worth 500,000 rand a year for Zuma from a French arms company.

Zuma said the money paid was for consultancy services “and nothing else”.

It was alleged that Zuma had offered to protect the French firm from an investigation into an arms deal South Africa arranged in the late 1990s.

Later in 2005, then-President Thabo Mbeki discharged Zuma as his deputy after he was implicated in the arms deal.

Zuma later ousted Mbeki to win leadership of the ANC, became president in 2009, and appointed a commission to investigate the arms deal in 2011.

In 2009 prosecutors dropped an investigation into more than 700 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering against Zuma in relation to the same arms deal. Despite the investigations, Zuma gained victory in presidential elections a month later.

The 30 billion rand deal to buy European military equipment in the late 1990s has led to a few convictions of officials who took bribes to help land contracts but critics said probes did not go far enough, letting several others off the hook.

In 2011, he appointed a commission to investigate the arms deal.

On Thursday, Zuma said the investigation, which took four years, had found no evidence of widespread bribery, corruption and fraud in the selection of the preferred bidder to supply the arms, or of payment of bribes to officials awarding of the deal.

Zuma said the three-volume report on the investigation will be made public.

TRTWorld, Reuters