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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Thursday 24 October 2019

Zuma seeks legal advice on Gaddafi millions reports

Former President Jacob Zuma is consulting his lawyers and will meet the Press Ombudsman over reports that he kept $30m (R422m) from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In a scathing statement on the likely action against the Sunday Times, which ran the original report, the Jacob Zuma Foundation said: ‘It is apparent that the Sunday Times joins an international cabal attempting to put former President Zuma’s life in danger.’ A report in The Star notes Zuma has come under fire in the past few days over reports that he stashed R422m in his home in Nkandla and then took it to Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). Opposition parties have called on law enforcement agencies to investigate the allegations. Yesterday, the foundation said this was not true, and noted that the Minister of International Relations & Co-operation, Lindiwe Sisulu, had denied any knowledge of the money. The foundation added that this was part of an ongoing campaign against Zuma, as there had been similar reports in the past. ‘Former President Zuma is not aware of any money directed to his Nkandla home from former President Gaddafi, nor has he ever received funds from Gaddafi,’ the foundation stated. It said Swazi King Mswati also did not know anything about the money. 

If allegations about his involvement in stolen Libyan assets are true, Zuma could be added to the US sanctions list – and potentially spend the rest of his life in a South African jail, according to a leading legal expert quoted in a Business Insider report. US authorities operate on the assumption that whenever a suspect transaction is denominated in US dollars, it falls under their jurisdiction. This has resulted in the aggressive pursuit of matters that, at face value, appear remote to the US. Given the seriousness of the alleged transgressions – particularly because Gaddafi was on the US sanctions list, and the possible transfer of ill-gotten dollars across borders – the US authorities’ approach might well be ‘very aggressive’ in pursuing this case, says forensic investigator and legal expert David Loxton, CEO of investigations firm Africa Forensics and Cyber. ‘If the allegations are true, it means that a former President of our country helped a dictator, whose assets were frozen by global authorities, to steal money belonging to people from Libya,’ he said. At the very least, Zuma himself will be added to the US sanctions list, Loxton believes. This means Zuma won’t be able to travel to America or its close allies, and that any business associated with him will come under US scrutiny. The former President could still do business in SA and maintain a local bank account if he is on the US sanctions list – but not if he is included on the UN sanctions list.