South Africa: Thales - How to Buy a Country

Screenshot of former president Jacob Zuma at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (file photo)

This week Open Secrets publishes the second in a series of profiles on the corporations and middlemen implicated in the multibillion-dollar Arms Deal of the late 1990s. This week we focus on the company at the heart of Zuma's Arms Deal corruption scandal and the co-accused in their corruption trial, the South African subsidiary of French arms company Thales.

The previous Unaccountable profile detailed Jacob Zuma's infamous battle with the South African legal system to escape scrutiny for his role in the 1999 Arms Deal. We explored the hard evidence against the former president, from the conviction of his adviser Schabir Shaik to secret code-phrases, encrypted fax messages and million-rand handshakes with a French multinational arms corporation. These actors placed profit over principle and undermined state institutions in an attempt to get away with it.


Sitting in the dock next to Jacob Zuma is Thales. Unfortunately, local media coverage presents Thales as a sideshow in the long and complex Zuma litigation. It suggests a glaring blind spot which glosses over corporate power to focus only on the elected politicians. But we should not forget that this arms company faces its own charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, all...

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