National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi is linked to shadowy figures who were associated with slain businessman Brett Kebble.
A Mail & Guardian investigation has revealed a web of relationships connecting Selebi to Clinton Nassif and Glenn Agliotti, who worked with Kebble on a series of “security” and other projects.
Both Nassif and Agliotti appear to have attracted the attention of law enforcement agencies in the course of the latter’s broader investigations into the coordination and financing of contraband smuggling activities.
It is known that the Scorpions are investigating the collapse of the Kebble empire and related matters. From M&G interviews with sources who have knowledge of the circumstances of Kebble’s life and death, it appears highly likely that an investigation by the Scorpions is traversing similar territory — including the significance or not of Selebi’s links to the network.
Scorpions spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi on Thursday declined to comment.
Subsequently the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Scorpions’ parent body, threatened the M&G with legal action should it report that Selebi was under investigation.
Investigations across the country’s security agencies appear to be focused on the financial and criminal can of worms opened by Kebble’s murder last September.
The scene of the crime
The M&G has established that Agliotti called Selebi on his private cellphone on the night of Kebble’s murder, from a spot close to the scene of the shooting.
Selebi and Agliotti admit to a longstanding friendship. Both insist there was nothing sinister about their conversation in the immediate aftermath of Kebble’s death. Selebi this week told the M&G Agliotti had phoned him as he (Agliotti) approached the Johannesburg overpass where Kebble sat slumped behind the wheel of his Mercedes on the night of September 27.
Selebi said: “The first person to phone me was a journalist, [Sunday Independent editor] Jovial Rantao, then the assistant commissioner called … At some point Glenn [Agliotti] phoned me to ask if I had heard. I said, ‘Glenn, when you get to the place please call me, and confirm that this is what has happened.”
Agliotti told the M&G he had called Selebi en route to the murder scene because “we needed all the help we could get”. Later, his lawyer Kim Warren said on his behalf that he had phoned Selebi at about 10.30pm — around an hour and a half after the murder — to “request immediate investigation”.
Phone records show Agliotti and Kebble had a number of conversations on the night before the murder. During at least two of these calls, Kebble was in the vicinity of the same overpass where he would meet his death 24 hours later.
Agliotti was a well-known figure at the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices of JCI, the company headed by Kebble until a month before his death, and distributed business cards with a prominent JCI logo and JCI telephone number.
Agliotti said through his lawyers this week that he had “acted as a consultant to JCI after being approached to supply certain services. The nature of the services was, inter alia, to secure trading opportunities and raising funds for various projects of JCI over a number of years.”
Two former employees said Agliotti was close to Kebble’s strategic adviser and co-director at JCI, John Stratton, a figure who has loomed large in the forensic audit investigation into the alienation of assets from JCI and sister company Randgold & Exploration.
The M&G has learnt that Stratton, who coordinated major elements of Kebble’s sprawling private security and intelligence operation, recently left the country, apparently in a hurry.
“Of course I saw [Agliotti] around, he was one of John’s people, but I was warned to avoid him and all those guys, and I did,” said one former employee.
Former employees also say they associated Agliotti with the “security” work conducted by Clinton Nassif and his Central National Security Group (CNSG), which was contracted to both Kebble and JCI.
In a telephonic interview with the M&G, Selebi was sanguine about his relationship with Agliotti, saying they had been friends since at least 1994.
Asked about meetings at various restaurants, casinos and Agliotti’s Midrand offices, as well as claims that they had gone shopping together, he said they would have met at various places, and he did not keep a diary of where they had gone.
He flatly denied that they had gone gambling together. “I have never been inside a casino,” he said.
The network of relationships runs deeper than friendship between the police chief and Agliotti.
Nassif, whose CNSG still has a contract with JCI, shares an interest in Chieftain Investments 5 with Agliotti. According to Agliotti’s lawyers, Chieftain is a dormant company that never traded. They admit to a friendship between Agliotti and Nassif.
Nassif made headlines last year when it emerged that he had arranged for Kebble’s car to be removed from the crime scene before thorough forensic work could be completed. The Mercedes was towed to Danmar panelbeaters, which is owned by the brother-in-law of one of his employees.
Independent forensic investigator Dr David Klatzow was sharply critical of Nassif, saying the removal of the car compromised evidence. Klatzow also criticised the police management of the crime scene, which, he alleged, was not properly secured. When Klatzow was taken off the case by the Kebble family, he said he had the impression this was after Selebi had intervened.
Selebi insisted this week, however, that he thought police had done a thorough job at the scene.
Nassif was “a ubiquitous presence” at JCI in the black Hugo Boss suits that he favoured, according to people who worked there, and was involved in numerous aspects of security, from physical guarding to e-mail protection.
He also shares business interests with a number of other figures in the Kebble network: Brenda Madumise, still a director at Randgold and a director of a number of empowerment companies in the JCI orbit, is also a director in two of Nassif’s companies, MDN Motor Holdings and Nu-Sefika Mineral and Energy.
In addition to security, Nassif has a wide range of interests in the car industry. Some of these have earned him the close attention of the police, and laid bare his association with international criminal networks.
In October 2001 JR Auto Spares, one of his business premises, was raided by police and R10-million worth of BMW spares, allegedly stolen, were confiscated.
Nassif’s explanation may have done him more harm than good. He gave police a statement claiming he had legitimately imported the spares from a foreign entity, Gamarada Pty Ltd, citing his contact as a Joe Delfrange.
Foreign police who looked into this claim sent local investigators a report indicating that Joseph Frangieh — his correct name — and his partners in Gamarada had been involved in numerous cases of car theft and drug dealing.
In June 2002, when Frangieh was questioned about Nassif’s claims, he was in custody for drug offences. He told police through his lawyer that he knew Nassif, but had had no dealings with him involving BMW parts.
An NPA official this week said a decision had been made some time ago not to prosecute Nassif on this matter. This was contradicted by Selebi, who — despite denying any knowledge of CNSG — said he had recently had a report on the issue, and that it was “ongoing”.
Selebi too, has a connection to Nassif, albeit seemingly indirect, through his close friend and former secretary Ntombi Matshoba, who is a director of CNSG and features prominently in its promotional material.
Matshoba is widely believed to be Selebi’s girlfriend, something he denies outright. She was his secretary, he explained, when he worked in the social welfare department of the ANC pre-1994.
Two separate sources told the M&G that companies had been asked to find a job for Matshoba on behalf of Selebi.
In both cases the man deputised to make the request was Paul Stemmet, a bodyguard and security expert who was engaged by Selebi early in his tenure as commissioner to conduct sensitive undercover operations for him relating to syndicates involved in smuggling drugs, tobacco and other commodities.
According to a well-placed source, Stemmet asked controversial investigation company Associated Intelligence Network to give Matshoba a job, claiming he was acting on behalf of Selebi.
It was also Stemmet who introduced Matshoba to an IT company where she also served on the board.
In both cases people familiar with the circumstances claimed she was on close personal terms with the commissioner.
One source claimed to have been present when she had visited Selebi in his office and afterwards mentioned the commissioner had complained about a car that she had damaged which he would have to pay for.
Selebi countered these claims. “AIN is Warren Goldblatt,” he said. “Anyone who knows my relationship with them … AIN wouldn’t allow me to get in the door. Anybody I proposed there would have had no chance.”
“Fixing her car is not true,” he added.
Friends in high places?
Some who were close to Kebble claim he was in more direct touch with the police commissioner. When Kebble wrote to then justice minister Penuell Maduna in 2003 complaining about the conduct of then NPA chief Bulelani Ngcuka, the correspondence was copied to Selebi, according to a well-placed JCI insider.
Another source, who was involved in some of JCI’s biggest empowerment scams, said Selebi had been a guest at Kebble’s Johannesburg home, a charge Selebi dismissed: “I never visited Brett Kebble. Remember, it was the police who arrested Roger Kebble.”
The high-profile arrest of Peter Skeat for allegedly defrauding the New Diamond Corporation of R40-million aroused intense speculation about Kebble’s possible involvement. Skeat, a rival gold mining executive who had not long before won R67-million from Kebble in court action, was handcuffed and clapped in leg irons. It was a mirror image of Roger Kebble’s highly public 2003 arrest, also on fraud charges, and it was greeted with considerable pleasure at JCI.
One business partner of Kebble’s claims the dead man had prepared the move. Stratton, this person said, had compiled a dossier of wiretaps and surveillance on Skeat, and Kebble planned to hand this to police: “I’m very close to Selebi, I can organise it,” he told this person.
Selebi, however, said Kebble had had nothing to do with the arrest. “My friends would not instruct me to do anything,” he said.
It seems Kebble and Stratton had a hand in another high-profile attack by government officials on a rival. British executive Mark Wellesley-Wood had uncovered massive fraud at Durban Roodepoort Deep, and fingered both Roger Kebble and Stratton for orchestrating it. Before Wellesley-Wood was deported on the orders of then home affairs director general Billy Masetlha in 2002, Stratton, Kebble and others in their inner circle joked about how he was going to suffer when he was taken to the notorious Lindela detention centre.
Probing the rackets
The undercover police operation involving Stemmet and his company, Palto, was purportedly aimed at smashing the smuggling syndicates, but became extremely controversial because of the “privatisation” of police work.
According to evidence presented in a current court case against AIN, Palto was an undercover front of the police’s intelligence division. Stemmet reported directly to Deputy Commissioner Raymond Lala and had access to any information contained in the police intelligence databases.
Agliotti “was Stemmet’s mate with the commissioner”, but stayed on and became close to Nassif, according to one source.
That both men have attracted attention in the course of investigations into smuggling activities appears not to worry the commissioner.
Asked if he was concerned about the fact that the Scorpions might be looking at his own relationship with these people, Selebi was relaxed.
“They can look at anything about it. I’d say, ‘Go ahead.” I’ll still be sitting here and there will be nothing that comes out of that. I am not bothered.”
- At the time of going to press, Nassif had failed to reply to faxed and e-mailed questions. Matshoba’s lawyer said she could not comment pending further consultations.
How we did it
The M&G has been investigating Kebble and his companies for several years.
Before Kebble died, we had already been alerted by independent sources to the possibility that he may have had connections with a syndicate suspected of involvement in the smuggling of tobacco and other contraband.
In the investigation that followed we drew on:
- company records;
- scores of interviews with sources, both confidential and on-the-record (our sources are drawn from a wide spectrum of business associates, friends and people who had some familiarity with the unfolding investigations into his activities);
- court records and other public documents; and
- confidential documents obtained in the course of our work.
During these investigations, the Selebi links became apparent.