The National Prosecuting Authority's R5million agreement with convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik was "normal", it said yesterday.
"The settlement between the NPA and Shaik is a normal one in civil litigation where disputes are often settled between the parties rather than litigated," NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said.
"The [asset forfeiture unit] settles disputes regularly after weighing up its prospects of success in court, the costs involved in the litigation and the extent to which it can devote its limited resources to litigating other matters," he said.
Quoting from papers filed in the Durban high court, the Star reported yesterday that Shaik had received R5 million from the state in a secret agreement on interest earned on R34 million that the state seized from him in January 2006.
Shaik had unsuccessfully tried to overturn the forfeiture order.
In terms of the agreement, the state agreed to pay Shaik half the R14 million in interest - R5 million in cash, with the balance being used to offset his legal fees. The remaining R14million would join the rest of the money in the criminal asset recovery account.
The newspaper reported that the deal was signed late last year and was conditional on being kept secret with "no public announcements", without written approval from either party.
Said Tlali: "All such settlements have to be submitted to the head of the AFU for authorisation and to ensure that they are justified, in accordance with procedures required by the auditor-general."
He added that the A-G audited such statements every year.
"In this matter, there was a relatively complex legal dispute about whether the AFU could claim interest on the amount of the confiscation order, the applicable interest rate and the date from which interest accrues.
"The AFU considered the fact that issues have not been litigated before, and would therefore have resulted in further litigation, which would have delayed the process by as much as another two years. In the event, it was agreed to settle the matter on the basis that the disputed interest would be shared between the parties," he said.
He confirmed the amounts involved and said the details of the agreement "were intended to be made public". - Sapa