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South Africa’s ex-president Zuma appears in court for corruption plea

PUBLISHED: Wed, 26 May 2021 10:59:46 GMT

Tim Cocks and Wendell Roelf

Reuters

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TOPSHOT – Former South African president Jacob Zuma arrives to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that is probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned companies in Johannesburg, on July 19, 2019. – Zuma, who started testifying on July 15, has rebuffed all accusations of wrongdoing and said he and his family had received death threats after his first appearance. (Photo by MIKE HUTCHINGS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MIKE HUTCHINGS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, May 26 (Reuters) – Former South African leader Jacob Zuma appeared in court on Wednesday, where he was expected to plead not guilty to corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges over a $2 billion arms deal when he was deputy president.

Zuma, who was president between 2009-2018, faces 18 charges relating to the 1999 deal. He has rejected the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motived witch hunt by a rival faction of the ruling African National Congress.

Zuma is accused of accepting 500,000 rand ($34,000) annually from French arms company Thales, in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the deal. He denies the charge.

Besides entering a plea at the court in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, Zuma’s defence team is expected to first call for the recusal of state prosecutor Billy Downer, on the grounds that he has “no title to prosecute”.

Thales was known as Thomson-CSF at the time of the deal. It has said it had no knowledge of any transgressions by any of its employees in relation to the award of the contracts.

The National Prosecuting Authority filed the charges against Zuma more than a decade ago, set them aside just before he successfully ran for president in 2009, then reinstated them a month after he resigned in early 2018.

(Reporting by Tim Cocks and Wendell Roelf, Editing by Timothy Heritage)


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