Selebi's fight-back strategy
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Former police chief Jackie Selebi is pinning his hopes of staying out of jail on a criminal probe into Glenn Agliotti’s tax affairs and a departmental investigation of the former Scorpions who successfully prosecuted him.
Selebi was granted leave to appeal against his corruption conviction and sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment on Monday by the South Gauteng High Court on limited grounds.
Judge Meyer Joffe ruled that the former top policeman may only appeal against the court’s finding that he received cash bribes worth R166 000 from his former drug-dealer friend, Agliotti.
While Selebi’s legal team is preparing an all-out attack on Joffe’s judgement—it will soon petition the Supreme Court of Appeal to allow Selebi leave to appeal against the judge’s entire judgement—the former police commissioner has explored other means of turning his conviction around.
New evidence may be introduced at appeal level by Selebi’s legal team if it can show the court that the information was uncovered only after his conviction and is fundamental to disproving his guilt.
The Mail & Guardian has reliably learned that Selebi’s hopes have been bolstered by an intensified fraud and tax evasion probe against Agliotti by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and an internal probe by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) into the conduct of state prosecutor Gerrie Nel and his team, who investigated Selebi.
Cagey media statement
This led the former police boss to release a cagey media statement last Friday, stating that he had “discovered [information] suggesting that the investigation and prosecution which led to my conviction have been improper”.
He had handed this information over to the “authorities” and trusted them to investigate the allegations, Selebi said.
The NPA has since confirmed that it is conducting an internal investigation into the matter and revealed that Selebi had also complained to Sars and the Hawks.
Sources close to the Selebi and Agliotti matters told the M&G that Selebi’s submission related to the emerging tax case against Agliotti and the conduct of Nel and his team.
Selebi’s ultimate goal is to show that the state withheld crucial evidence from him, that Agliotti and his ex-fiancée Dianne Muller lied in court and that the Scorpions investigated and prosecuted him with an ulterior motive.
During Monday’s application for leave to appeal, Selebi’s advocate, Jaap Cilliers, again claimed the state had not provided the defence with all the cheque stubs for the Spring Lights account, from which Selebi was paid.
This suggests that Selebi suspects there may be other cheque stubs for payments made from the account, disproving Agliotti’s evidence that “Cash Cop” and “JSGA” referred to Selebi.
In his judgement Joffe accepted three cheque stubs as corroborating Agliotti’s evidence that those payments were made to Selebi.
The M&G revealed in 2008 that Sars was conducting a confidential investigation into Agliotti’s affairs, including his relationship with various underworld and business figures.
At that stage Agliotti was already under house arrest by the Scorpions and identified as their main witness against Selebi. The M&G understands this led to friction between the Scorpions and tax authorities, who felt Agliotti was being treated softly because of his indemnity arrangement with the state.
Sars steps in
After Selebi was convicted and Joffe refused to indemnify Agliotti from prosecution on the matters on which he testified, Sars stepped up its probe. In the last week of July this year two criminal charges of fraud and tax evasion were laid against Agliotti at the Brooklyn police station. Sars and the police’s serious economic offences unit are cooperating in the case.
As part of their confidential investigation into Agliotti’s affairs, Sars officials interviewed Muller and her father, Martin Flint, before they testified in the Selebi trial. Both witnesses said in their evidence that Sars had questioned them and Selebi’s urgent attempts to gain access to tax records suggest suspicions that they told the tax authorities something behind closed doors that could help his cause.
It also underscores the fact that Muller’s evidence is the biggest obstacle to a successful appeal by Selebi and that he is desperately looking for ways to attack her integrity.
In court Muller said that she and Sars went through her accounts “transaction for transaction”, including money paid to her from the Spring Lights account. During his cross-examination of Muller, Cilliers claimed hundreds of thousands of rands paid to her from Spring Lights were hidden from forensic audit firm KPMG, which analysed Spring Lights’ and Selebi’s accounts.
In his closing argument Cilliers argued that Muller might have had a motive to testify untruthfully because she received vast amounts of money from Agliotti via Spring Lights. Joffe rejected this argument and accepted her testimony that she saw Agliotti handing over R110 000 in a bank bag to Selebi.
Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay confirmed to the M&G that Selebi, “as on previous occasions”, had asked the revenue service “to disclose taxpayer information ... a request that Sars again declined, as information on the affairs of any taxpayer is treated as confidential”. In response to Selebi’s complaint, Sars referred the matter to prosecutions boss Menzi Simelane. The taxman did not complain to Simelane, as was stated earlier this week by the NPA.
It seems unlikely that Selebi will succeed in gaining formal access to the records in Agliotti’s tax trial before the matter goes to court and in time for Selebi’s appeal.
The second leg of Selebi’s campaign to stay out of jail is the NPA’s internal investigation against Nel and his team. NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed on Monday that Simelane had launched an internal probe of their conduct after receiving Selebi’s complaint.
The M&G believes this investigation may cover reluctance by Nel and his team to “release” Agliotti to Sars for scrutiny while he was being protected as a state witness; allegations that the NPA did not hand over all documents in its possession to Selebi’s legal team, particularly documents that could have dented the state’s case; and complaints by former NPA employees about the conduct of the Scorpions in the Selebi investigation.
This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest. www.amabhungane.co.za.