'Grey eminence' accuses journos

John Stratton, the “grey eminence” of the Kebble empire, is not happy.

A recent Australian documentary about his chequered career was funded by his enemies, he says, and journalists who participated—including this correspondent—were offered “inducements” to malign his character.

It is hard to see why any inducement would be necessary.

The documentary, Bad Company first aired on the high-profile Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) programme Four Corners in June, and then on M-Net’s Carte Blanche last month. It dragged Stratton from the relative peace of his Perth bolt-hole into the limelight he has largely managed to avoid throughout an extraordinarily chequered career.

Stratton is fighting his possible extradition to South Africa in connection with the murder of Brett Kebble.
He was also one of the principal players in the epic plunder at the mining houses JCI and Randgold; and he has been accused of ordering the shooting of an investor who threatened to tell all.

Stratton is also a notoriously unpleasant man, given to vicious criticism of subordinates and sometimes even threats of violence.

Australian journalists Andrew Fowler and Wayne Harley retraced Stratton’s steps from plush London hotels to Johannesburg boardrooms via a remote, and thoroughly defunct goldmine in Indonesia, piling-up evidence as they went.

They interviewed Roger Kebble, who worked closely with Stratton on a deal involving the Indonesian goldmine and Durban Roodepoort Deep (DRD), as well as former DRD boss Mark Wellesley Wood, who tried to clean up the resulting mess. They interviewed Paul O’ Sullivan, who had helped to uncover alleged payments from Brett Kebble to National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi. And they interviewed two South African journalists who have followed the story closely, Moneyweb’s Barry Sargeant and me.

Independently we explained some of the background and said someone should be held to account for all the financial and political destruction wrought by Kebble and his grand vizier.

So it must be Sargeant and I that Stratton has in mind when he says he learned from “various sources in London and South Africa” that “certain journalists” were improperly lured into participating.

I checked with Sargeant: “The allegation is complete rubbish, its libellous, defamatory, and insulting, but you have to take it from where it comes. These are the desperate ravings of a fugitive from justice”.

Right then.

Stratton also claims the programme was funded by O’Sullivan, who he suggests was working for Roger Kebble. O’Sullivan laughed hard and long when I put this to him.

“Yes, and he also claims he had nothing to do with the murder of Brett Kebble, and that he doesn’t know where the money has gone. He is talking out of his backside.”

ABC’s Sue Spencer offered a more formal comment: “The ABC expressly rejects the patently false and absurd assertion that any third party, including Mr Roger Kebble or Mr Paul O’Sullivan, had anything at all to do with the funding of the Four Corners programme nor were any inducements offered to journalists to appear in the programme.”

I tried to call Stratton. “What was I supposed to have been offered?”, I wanted to ask him and where was the proof? But he didn’t answer his phone. His public relations firm, the NCS group, could not come up with an answer either.

It isn’t really the done thing to report on yourself, but for the record, I did not get so much as a beer for my reporting efforts.

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