- Ajay Sooklal, an attorney who acted as an adviser to Thint, the French company related to the charges against former president, Jacob Zuma says he plans to testify at the Zondo commission because he believed Thint’s alleged corruption of Zuma was “the beginning of state capture”
- His claims include that he witnessed Zuma asking a top Thint official to pay for a court application to the Mauritian Supreme Court to prevent the Scorpions from obtaining documents that were crucial in the corruption case against him
- The evidence Zuma hoped the Mauritian court would suppress included the “encrypted fax” documenting a bribe agreement between Thint and Zuma which is a crucial part of the state’s racketeering case against Zuma and Thint
Among witnesses clamouring to testify against Jacob Zuma as the charges or corruption are brought to court is Ajay Sooklal, who once acted as a legal advised to French arms company, Thint.
He said this week that he was eager to testify at the Zondo commission into state capture as he feels the alleged corruption of Zuma, which he claims to have witnessed first hand, marked the very “beginning of state capture.”
Briefly.co.za gathers that he spoke to South African legal journalist, Karen Maughn this week. “I’m the only person who can give direct and truthful evidence about what really happened [between Thint and Zuma]. I’m ready to testify,” he said. “There is no lawful explanation for these payments.”
“The Hawks want my testimony about payments made from 1996 to August 2005,” Sooklal reportedly said. He began representing Thint/Thales in 2003, putting his tenure with the company right in the middle of the time frame.
During the corruption trial of Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, the so-called “encrypted fax” was found to have documented a bribe agreement between Thint and Zuma. In the document Zuma, who was at the time deputy president, agreed to accept an annual payment of R500 000 to offer “protection” for the company from arms deal investigations.
Zuma’s Mauritian case surrounded claims of his that the then serving president Thabo Mbeki was conspiring against him.
Mbeki later fired Zuma after Shaik’s conviction adding fuel to the flames of Zuma’s beliefs that Mbeki was acting with political intent against him. He even testified as much months after he had defeated Mbeki at the 2007 ANC elective conference.
“I verily believe that my prosecution has, from inception, been politically motivated as a result of the political beliefs and principles, which I hold dear and which some of my political adversaries seek to negate by denying me the right to occupy important political office,” said Zuma.
On the other hand, Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, has dismissed all Sooklal’s claims as lies. Sooklal’s honest has also been called into question as recently as last month by Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yacoob.
Sooklal claims it was he who gave Hulley Veloso’s business card, with the understanding that he would serve as a middleman. Thereafter, following a meeting between Hulley and a local advocate representing Zuma in Mauritius Sooklal said, “Veloso paid the advocate’s fees”.
However, Hulley is reportedly adamant that Thint had never given Zuma legal funding, “I categorically deny that Sooklal, Thint or any person associated with them have ever assisted in the payment of fees or associated expenses relating to Mr Zuma’s legal costs.”
Sooklal claims that the French company continued to support Zuma, even following the company having accused him of corruption. Sooklal said he thought it was as if the company anticipated he would become the next president of the ruling party. Sooklal said Zuma “was continuously and regularly funded by the Thales Group for this reason,” saying he was privvy to many occasions where the funding was given to Zuma in cash.
On the matter of whether his testifying would amount to a confession on his own part, Sooklad denied that he was complicit in corruption through his own actions.
Furthermore, Sooklal while giving testimony in February to a tribunal on economic crimes, was asked by Yacoob when he had become aware that Zuma might be corrupt. To which Sooklal replied, “2008”.
Sooklal exited as a witness being unprepared for intense cross examination by Yacoob.
Sooklal also claimed Zuma asked to meet him on 13 August, 2012 when he asked him not to testify about these payments to the Seriti Commission which was to investigate the arms deal.
At the time, Sooklal said he had agreed but is now trying to have the commission reopened to include his testimony.
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