South Africa-Corruption-Zuma

Zuma, Thales plead not guilty to fraud, corruption charges

APA-Pietermaritzburg (South Africa)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma and co-accused French arms manufacturer Thales pleaded not guilty to multiple fraud and corruption charges when they appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday.

Zuma and Thales are facing 18 corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges linked to a US$2.1 billion arms deal carried out in the early 1990s.

The trial, however, has been postponed to 19 July following state prosecutor Billy Downer’s request to the court to do so.

According to the prosecutor, Zuma’s special plea affidavit filed last week demanding his recusal from the proceedings due to his perceived bias against the former president was over 1,000-pages.

The prosecutor told the court that he needed more time to peruse through the document in order to respond to Zuma’s plea at the next court session.

Downer said he made this request to the court after consulting with Zuma’s defence team, which includes lawyer Dali Mpofu, a prominent member of the opposition Economic Freedom Front party led by Julius Malema.

The court did not object to the request.

Downer successfully prosecuted Zuma's former financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, in 2005 in the same arms scandal case.

Shaik was, however, released from prison after serving only three of his 15-year jail term after Zuma pardoned him on medical grounds.

NM/jn/APA

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