Former South African president Jacob Zuma facing corruption charges

The charges relate to a €2bn arms deal in the late 1990s

Former South African president Jacob Zuma facing corruption charges

File photo of then-South African President Jacob Zuma addressing the United Nations General Assembly, 15-02-2018. Image: Li Rui/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma will be charged with corruption over a massive arms deal in the 1990s.

The country's chief prosecutor has said there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution.

The 18 charges relate to a 30bn Rand (€2.04bn) arms deal in the late 1990s.

Chief state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said: "After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment."

Mr Zuma disputes all the allegations against him and could now appeal against the ruling on a number of grounds and argue that the decision is illegitimate as Mr Abrahams' own position is uncertain.

In December, the High Court in Pretoria ordered then-deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Abrahams, ruling that Mr Zuma's original decision to appoint him was "null and void" because he was "conflicted" at the time.

Mr Abrahams said: "Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done - I am mindful that everyone is equal before the law."

In 2017, a court ruled against a decision by prosecutors in 2009 to drop the corruption charges against Mr Zuma just months before he became president.

The criminal charges against Mr Zuma relate to multi-billion-dollar arms procurement deals struck by the government in the late 1990s and from which he is accused of profiting corruptly to the tune of 4m Rand (€272,500).

State prosecutors justified dropping the case by saying that tapped phone calls between officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki's administration showed undue interference.

Mr Zuma and other officials were accused of taking backhanders from the €4.2bn purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and other arms manufactured by five European firms, including British military equipment maker BAE Systems and French company Thales.

In 2005 Mr Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted for facilitating bribes over the contracts and sentenced to 15 years in prison but was later released on medical grounds.

Mr Zuma quit as president in February after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party threatened to remove him from office.