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Adriaan Basson, Ilham Rawoot, Sello S Alcock05 Oct 2009 15:14
Former police boss Jackie Selebi told the South Gauteng High Court on Monday that he is being prosecuted because he became privy to damning information on former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) bosses Bulelani Ngcuka and Vusi Pikoli.
His relationship with Pikoli, Selebi said, deteriorated after he voiced his support for allegations that the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), also known as the Scorpions, acted outside of its mandate.
Selebi made these allegations on Monday at the start of his trial for corruption and defeating the ends of justice—at which he pleaded not guilty—after the NPA surprisingly included businessman and former fugitive from the law Billy Rautenbach as a key witness against him.
Rautenbach has been included as a witness to support allegations that the former police national commissioner, through star witness Glen Agliotti, was bribed to use his influence to make arrest warrants against former rally driver Rautenbach disappear.
In a twist of events, Selebi, through his counsel, Jaap Cilliers SC, told a shocked court that he was facing charges of corruption after he discovered that Ngcuka had attempted to extort a bribe from Rautenbach, through his attorney, James Ramsay.
Selebi also said that Ngcuka wanted to get more information from Rautenbach on mining rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. Ngcuka’s alleged knowledge of the mining rights, Selebi argued, was evidence that the DSO had engaged in “illegal gathering of intelligence”.
Ngcuka, in a statement released on Monday afternoon, denied this.
“I reject all these allegations with contempt. I never attempted to extort or receive bribes from Rautenbach’s team or anyone else for that matter. Not then and not now. It is an outright lie,” said Ngcuka.
He added that he had never met Rautenbach, and only met with his lawyer, Ramsay, after Rautenbach indicated he wanted to negotiate a plea agreement. “Unfortunately, the discussion reached a dead end and we could not reach any agreement as we, the NPA, would not settle for any penalty that excluded custodial sentence,” said Ngcuka.
He added that he took a principled decision when he went into business to steer clear of issues involving mining rights.
The tension in the courtroom was tangible as family members arrived with solemn faces, and the defence attorney and prosecutor exchanged cold niceties.
Selebi arrived in a grey suit and bright orange tie, and stood firmly as he repeated his plea of “not guilty” to every charge.
On Pikoli, Selebi alleged that he had “obtained a material gratification [or bribe] through his wife from the late Brett Kebble in an improper way”.
He said this was done via shares in listed entities Simmer and Jack, and “through other entities”.
Selebi told the court that he had subsequently summoned Pikoli to his office to discuss the issues, and that Pikoli had allegedly responded by saying, “Oh, it is a murky world.”
On the issue of Pikoli’s wife’s gratification, Selebi said: “Pikoli became very emotional — and stated that his wife is his ‘Achilles’ heel’ — He did not deny the fact that his wife received gratification.”
Selebi then allegedly instructed the police’s crime intelligence unit to investigate these issues, which “caused a further deterioration in the relationship with the NPA/DSO”.
Shortly after his confrontation with Pikoli, Selebi added, the Scorpions started investigating him.
Selebi said that even though Ngcuka was then no longer the national director of public prosecutions, he still exerted significant influence on the Scorpions, and put “huge pressure” on Leonard McCarthy, then head of the organisation, to proceed with the campaign against Selebi.
He accused the Scorpions and the NPA of providing false information to the media, Cabinet, the state president and to the court in order to discredit him.
The NPA and the Scorpions, said Selebi, had approached and offered indemnity against prosecution to people with “a history of criminal activities, including, murder, drug trafficking and fraud” in exchange for false statements implicating him.
“The accused therefore pleads that the case against him was manipulated with mala fide intentions in an attempt to discredit him for the reasons as out above [sic] and to endure the continued existence of the DSO,” said Cilliers.
The trial will resume on Tuesday morning after Judge Meyer Joffe laid down the rules of engagement and indicated that he would not tolerate any “filibustering” from both state advocate Gerrie Nel and Cilliers.
View the state’s witness list
Read more from Adriaan Basson
Read more from Ilham Rawoot
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