Kebble: Scorpions widen the net

The bail hearing of Norbert Glenn Agliotti, which was postponed on Friday until next Wednesday, marks the start of what promises to be the most sensational series of trials in recent South African history, tracing veins of criminal influence reaching high into the law enforcement, political and business establishments.

Agliotti, now notorious as the friend of police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, has been charged with involvement in the murder of mining magnate and corporate mega fraud convict Brett Kebble.

He is at present being held at the Sandton police station and will apply to the Johannesburg Regional Court to be released on bail. National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi told the Mail & Guardian the prosecution would oppose bail and that the first outline of the case against Agliotti would be presented to justify his continued incarceration.

Kebble died in September last year at the hand of the same mafia he had assembled around himself during the final years of his controversial life.

His death attracted an unprecedented level of attention from the media and the public at large, as well as from law enforcement agencies.

The mafia has turned on itself, resulting in scandal pulsing through the state, political and corporate spheres and gushing on to the pages of a thousand news reports.

As the wheels of justice start grinding in tandem with further investigations, the focus will be on much more than one man’s death.

Questions to be settled include the extent to which the police itself, up to its highest office, may have been compromised.

Similarly, corporate South Africa will have to grapple with its embrace of a man whose chicanery should have been there for all to see, but whose death it took for anyone to notice the extent of the wrongdoing.

Politicians who enjoyed Kebble’s patronage may also be called on to explain.

Net widens

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula told Parliament earlier in the week that more breakthroughs in the Kebble murder case could be expected soon, but declined to give details, saying the case was too sensitive.

One M&G source suggested a high-profile arrest could be imminent, while there were reports on Thursday that John Stratten, a close Kebble associate, was returning from Australia. He could be a material witness.

Thus far the NPA and its Directorate of Special Operations (DSO, better known as the Scorpions), investigators have given nothing away regarding evidence at their disposal on the role allegedly played by Agliotti in the Kebble assassination.

Agliotti is known to have spoken to Kebble on the phone on several occasions in the 24 hours before the murder and Agliotti has admitted to phoning Selebi shortly after the killing, allegedly while on his way to the crime scene.

The Selebi connection

However, more evidence is emerging of the wider Scorpions investigation to which the Kebble murder is inextricably linked — and the place of the national commissioner of police in that investigation.

During last week’s attempt to prevent the M&G from publishing details from a sworn affidavit by Paul Stemmet, the former undercover police operative who has been closely linked to Selebi and Agliotti, the Scorpions effectively confirmed that they were investigating allegations against Selebi himself.

Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy, in an affidavit prepared for the gag attempt, confirmed that Stemmet’s statement was obtained by the DSO as part of a highly sensitive investigation. “The investigation … is extremely confidential and access to sensitive witness statements is restricted to no more than five people,” he explained, noting that Stemmet’s statement was one of those.

Stemmet’s affidavit deals almost exclusively with the relationship between himself, Agliotti and Selebi, and makes the claim that Agliotti bought clothes for Selebi and his family. It also alleges Selebi was informed of allegations regarding Agliotti’s involvement in a drug shipment as early as 2002.

Selebi strikes back

Selebi has refused to comment on the claims, but his spokesperson noted that Stemmet was investigated by the police on a dozen criminal cases and said Selebi was confident he will be cleared of any suspicion.

The nine provincial police commissioners staged a show of force for Selebi this week, pledging their “unwavering support”. Their statement followed their meeting with NPA national director Vusi Pikoli and effectively ratchets up the political and institutional tensions around the Selebi allegations.

The commissioners also expressed “collective concern about the media coverage of the scurrilous, defamatory and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against the national commissioner”.

How high does it go?

But McCarthy’s affidavit makes it clear that Stemmet’s statement against Selebi forms part of what he calls an investigation of “targeted corruption of senior law enforcement personnel”.

A search warrant used to raid Agliotti’s home and office earlier this year authorised the seizure of “any documents showing any communication with the South African Police Service … and any item that may show a link with SAPS activities”.

The same warrant listed senior police crime intelligence officer Captain MornÃ

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans is an old hand at investigations. A politics and journalism graduate, he cut his reporting teeth at the Cape Argus in the tumultuous early 1990s; then joined the Mail & Guardian as democracy dawned in April 1994. For the next 16 years (a late-1990s diversion into television and freelancing apart), the M&G was his journalistic home and launch pad for award-winning investigations focusing on the nexus between politics and money. Stefaans has co-authored exposés including Oilgate, the Selebi affair, Chancellor House and significant breaks in the arms deal scandal. Stefaans and Sam Sole co-founded amaBhungane in 2010. He divides his time between the demands of media bureaucracy (which he detests), coaching members of the amaBhungane team, and his first love, digging for dung.
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