Selebi: NPA may force police hand

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is considering taking the South African Police Service (SAPS) to court to force it to hand over “top secret” documents relating to the corruption case against police national commissioner Jackie Selebi.

This emerged during Selebi’s failed attempt on Thursday to strike his case off the roll of the Randburg Magistrate’s Court.

Magistrate Lalitha Chetty dismissed Selebi’s argument that his trial is being unreasonably delayed and referred the matter to the Johannesburg High Court for trial from April 14 to June 19 2009.

It is expected that the trial will run for at least two months.

This means that Selebi will not perform any policing duties during the next year after his contract was extended for 12 months to June 2009 by President Thabo Mbeki this week.

“The national commissioner will remain on leave pending the finalisation and outcome of his court case. [Deputy National Commissioner Tim] Williams will continue to act as the national commissioner of SAPS,” a Cabinet statement announced on Wednesday.

“This decision was based on the need to allow due process to be concluded before a final decision could be taken on the future of his employment contract with the state.”

Mbeki’s decision has been criticised by security experts, who have highlighted the need for new blood and ideas to fight the crime scourge. Another senior police source said it was no surprise that Mbeki had decided to keep the status quo intact.

“Someone new would have rocked the boat and that would not have been good for Selebi. The current team [of deputy national commissioners] all support Selebi.”

Suspended NPA boss Vusi Pikoli has accused Mbeki of protecting Selebi against prosecution. Mbeki suspended Pikoli after he obtained warrants of arrest and search and seizure against the police boss.

The Mail & Guardian has also learned that South African Revenue Service boss Pravin Gordhan lost interest in the top police job after learning that Selebi was to be reappointed.

On Thursday Selebi’s counsel, Jaap Cilliers, argued that the investigation of his client has not been finalised and this was evident from correspondence between the NPA and the police. Selebi’s right to a speedy trial was, therefore, being violated by his being charged when there was no ability to prosecute.

A large part of Cilliers’s argument was based on an article in last week’s City Press alleging the police are stifling the Selebi investigation by refusing to hand over crucial documents to the Scorpions.

Cilliers handed over to the court letters from acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe listing numerous documents still outstanding. These include:

  • Details of the recruitment of Selebi’s friend and drug-dealer Glenn Agliotti and Palto boss Paul Stemmet as police informants or reservists;
  • Details that show payments to Agliotti and Stemmet;
  • Video recordings in which Agliotti, Stemmet and other Palto members appear;
  • Official police correspondence with Agliotti, Stemmet and Palto;
  • Documents and files relating to Palto, the Brett Kebble murder, the Billy Rautenbach investigation, the Kaya Sands Mandrax bust and the investigation into fraud accused Gary Porrit;
  • The diaries of Selebi and other police officers, including Deputy National Commissioner Ray Lalla, commissioner Mulangi Mphego, director Mark Hankel, senior superintendent Manie Viktor and captain Morne Nel; and
  • All correspondence between the SAPS and the British authorities concerning investigations into the international drug trade, which involves Agliotti.

Cilliers firstly alleged that the NPA had leaked the letters to City Press. He then argued that the NPA’s requests are not new and that access to documents which are not top secret had been given to the Scorpions.

From the correspondence between Mpshe and Williams it is, however, clear that the SAPS is refusing to furnish the Scorpions with the bulk of the requested documents because they are classified. Cilliers further complained that the final docket has not been received and that numerous complaints to the NPA have been ignored.

The recent request for documents is, according to Cilliers, a clear indication that the case against Selebi is not complete.”I find it astonishing that they would apply for a warrant of arrest for the commissioner of police when, on their own version, they still need almost all the relevant documentation,” Cilliers said.

The trial date of April 14 next year was decided on by both parties to make provision for pre-trial applications. In one of these, Cilliers predicted, the NPA would take the SAPS to court to obtain the disputed documents.

The M&G has established that the NPA is indeed considering this option after numerous failed requests for assistance from the police.

Gauteng Scorpions head Gerrie Nel opposed Cilliers’s argument that the unit is not ready for trial, stating that the case against Selebi will go ahead. “How we get there is our own business.” He also denied leaking information to City Press.

Nel told the court there was an arrangement between him and Selebi’s lawyers that the full docket will be handed over when the Ginwala inquiry’s public hearings end on July 4.

Chetty said the court was not prepared to direct the state on how to conduct its case and that she was satisfied both parties had agreed to the trial date.

She labelled Selebi’s complaints “premature” and agreed to refer the matter to the high court for trial.

Outside court Selebi was escorted by more than 60 bodyguards, some of them police officers dressed in civilian clothes.

Lalla, Mphego and Deputy National Commissioner Andre Pruis also attended the hearing.

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