Schabir Shaik's final appeal dismissed
JOHANNESBURG (Sapa) - Schabir Shaik's last hope is a presidential pardon after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application to appeal against his 15-year sentence for corruption and fraud.
"There are no other legal avenues available to him. The only avenue for him is to petition the president," said Anton Steynberg, who was part of a team which secured Shaik's conviction in June 2005, after Tuesday's judgment.
"We are happy that this chapter has finally closed -- it has been dragging on for a long time," said Steynberg.
When called for comment, Shaik's brother Mo said simply, "Please, let's just not have this discussion."
Shaik reported to Westville Prison on November 9, 2006 but became ill shortly afterwards. He spent some time recuperating, controversially, in St Augustine's private hospital, and later in an infirmary in Qalakabusha prison hospital, before being taken back to Westville Prison on the eve of his Constitutional Court application.
Shaik's charges related to payments he and his 10 companies made to former deputy president Jacob Zuma, then MEC of economic affairs and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal, "to secure his political influence for their financial benefit", the background to the judgment read.
"This included an arrangement facilitated by Mr Shaik in terms of which a payment was made by a director of Thint (Pty) Ltd, Mr Alain Thetard, to Mr Zuma in connection with a transaction regarding the acquisition of arms."
Zuma was "released" from the deputy presidency by President Thabo Mbeki after Shaik's conviction in a move widely interpreted as taking Zuma out of the running for the next president.
Zuma was also charged with corruption after Shaik's conviction, but the case was struck off the roll after the prosecution asked for a postponement to allow for the completion of various court challenges related to the case.
Steynberg and lead prosecutor Billy Downer were cautious when questioned on the implications for Zuma of the Constitutional Court judgment.
"If it had gone the other way it might have (affected the Zuma investigation). But it doesn't stop us from doing what we are doing," said Steynberg. "It reaffirms that we were on the right track."
In a unanimous judgment the court ruled that, "The application to introduce new evidence is dismissed, as much of the evidence in question is not undisputed, and the evidence is also irrelevant to the issues to be decided by this court.
"The Court held that the applicants' submissions on the alleged unfairness of the trial based on the failure to charge Mr Zuma and/or Thint and the alleged prosecutorial misconduct, bear no prospects of success.
"The decision to charge Mr Shaik and the companies, without also charging other parties possibly suspected of being involved in the same offences, did not constitute an irregularity that rendered the trial unfair. Nor did the conduct of the lead prosecutor, which accorded with the Constitution and the National Prosecuting Act 32 of 1998.
"The Court furthermore held that the applicants' submissions concerning the sentences bear no prospects of success. The High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal properly considered Mr Shaik's history and other personal circumstances.
"The suffering of discrimination is not a general excuse for crime committed after the dawn of democracy. The minimum sentencing legislation was also clearly applicable to Mr Shaik's sentence of imprisonment.
"An appeal against the convictions and sentences does not bear reasonable prospects of success. It would thus not be in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal."
However, the court granted the application to appeal a confiscation of assets order made in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, "in the interests of justice".
In contrast to the large crowds which had followed Shaik and Zuma's court appearances, only tourists, journalists and legal representatives were present at the court on Tuesday.
Shaik's legal team was represented at the judgment by advocate Keith Lavine and attorney Hoossen Sader who did not want to comment, saying they had been present merely to accept the judgment.