President Zuma says no evidence on arms deal fraud

President Jacob Zuma speaks during the official launch of the eChannel Pilot Project of the Department of Home Affairs in Midrand, Johannesburg, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South African President Jacob Zuma says an inquiry into an arms deal worth billions of dollars has found no evidence of corruption or fraud.

A commission of inquiry was set up five years ago to look into the allegations surrounding the 1999 government deal.

Zuma was sacked as deputy president in 2005 after his financial adviser Shabir Shaik was found guilty of trying to solicit bribes for his boss from an arms company and was convicted of corruption over the deal.

The president announced that the inquiry had found no evidence against any government officials of the time.

He said money had been paid for consultancy services “and nothing else”.

The allegations relate to the government’s purchase of 30bn rand (then five billion dollars) worth of fighter jets, helicopters, submarines and warships in 1999.

Mr Zuma always denied the allegations, and in 2009 prosecutors dropped 700 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering against him, just weeks before elections which saw him become president.

However, his critics refused to let the issue drop, so in 2011 he agreed to appoint a commission to investigate the arms deal.