Ex-South African President Zuma Will Face Trial for Corruption

Derek Alberts and Paul Vecchiatto

(Bloomberg) -- Former South African President Jacob Zuma lost a court bid to stop a graft case against him that dates back to the 199Os.

The ruling by the High Court in the eastern town of Pietermaritzburg on Friday clears the way for Zuma’s trial to begin on Oct. 15. He faces 16 charges, including money laundering and racketeering.

Prosecutors spent eight years investigating allegations that Zuma, 77, took 4.07 million ($270,000) in bribes from arms dealers. They abandoned the case months before he became president in 2009, saying taped phone calls indicated that the chief investigator may have used the case to frustrate Zuma’s efforts to win control of the ruling African National Congress.

In October last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that the decision not to pursue the case was “irrational.” While that judgment paved the way for the trial to proceed, prosecutors allowed Zuma to make representations why it should be abandoned.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made the fight against crime and corruption a top priority when he replaced Zuma in February last year. He’s set about restoring credibility to law-enforcement agencies like the National Prosecuting Authority, which was dogged by changes to its top management and allegations it allowed political considerations to influence its decisions to prosecute during Zuma’s rule.

On Friday, the NPA asked the government of the United Arab Emirates to ratify agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance. The authority is seeking to bring three businessmen -- Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta -- back to South Africa to to answer questions regarding illegal activities they were allegedly involved in thanks to their proximity to influential politicians, including Zuma.

The U.S. Treasury on Thursday imposed sanctions on the three Gupta brothers and a fourth businessman, Salim Essa, whom it said were members of a “significant corruption network” in South Africa.

Zuma, the Gupta family and Essa deny any wrongdoing.

(Updates with U.S. imposing sanctions on businessmen linked to Zuma.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Derek Alberts in Johannesburg at dalberts@bloomberg.net;Paul Vecchiatto in Cape Town at pvecchiatto@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gordon Bell at gbell16@bloomberg.net, Mike Cohen, Paul Richardson

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