POLOKWANE, South Africa, Sep 26 – South African populist firebrand Julius Malema was charged with money laundering and released on bail on Wednesday as he and his supporters derided what they said was a show trial.
The former ANC high-flyer was charged with “money laundering, of receiving the proceeds of unlawful activities,” prosecutor Billy Moalosi told the court.
The charges detail a complex pyramid of companies linked to Malema.
As a key figure in these companies, he is accused of lying and influence peddling to gain an infrastructure contract in Malema’s home province of Limpopo, worth 52 million rand ($6.3 million, 4.9 million euros.)
The proceeds are alleged to have been used to help buy Malema a Mercedes Benz Viano and a large farm.
A police spokesperson said the charge could result in up to 15 years in prison and a large fine.
The case was adjourned to November 30 and during Wednesday’s hearing Malema did not enter a plea.
But after being released on bail of 10,000 rand (945 euros, $1,215) he told supporters that the case was punishment for a high-profile dispute with President Jacob Zuma.
“Some people have taken a decision to conspire against me and bring some charges,” he said waving his fist from the back of a pickup truck to cheers.
“They are trying to get something against me, they are sent by Jacob Zuma.”
Police issued an arrest warrant for the former ANC Youth League leader on Friday, shortly after he seized on unrest at South Africa’s mines to launch political attacks against Zuma.
“These charges which they’ve brought against me, they will not affect me in any way. I am unshaken. I am not intimidated by nonsense” – Malema.
“These charges which they’ve brought against me, they will not affect me in any way. I am unshaken. I am not intimidated by nonsense,” he said.
Malema turned himself in on Wednesday, appearing first at a police station and then in court, where, sporting a dark suit, red tie and white shirt, he appeared relaxed.
After walking into the dock, he turned, smiled and waved to his cheering supporters in the packed courtroom, who broke into song.
Hundreds of his fans were also waiting outside, many sporting combative placards attacking Zuma, whose African National Congress (ANC) expelled Malema earlier this year.