/ 9 October 2009

Agliotti: State witness and fall guy?

State witness Glenn Agliotti seemed to transform himself into the fall guy for any dodgy dealings with former top cop Jackie Selebi at Selebi’s corruption trial at the South Gauteng High Court on Friday.

However, the state could also claim victory in the first week of one of South Africa’s most startling trials, as Selebi did not deny showing accusatory documents to Agliotti — but he maintains the intent was innocent.

Selebi’s version of events emerged for the first time during defence lawyer Jaap Cilliers’s highly anticipated cross-examination.

”I put it to you that you never obtained any improper assistance from the accused in any way … despite the fact on your version you gave him some money and gifts,” said Cilliers.

”That is correct, according to the accused,” replied Agliotti.

Cilliers continued: ”But you agree with me, the basic proposition, now as you sit there, the accused in no way provided you with any advantage on any improper basis whatsoever between 2000 and 2006.”

”I would agree with you, based on the fact that I deemed the accused as a friend … obviously I used that friendship for my own gain,” said Agliotti.

Selebi’s case finally started on Monday after almost three years of delays. The former national police commissioner is answering to charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice.

The counts relate to payments of at least R1,2-million he allegedly received from Agliotti, former Hyundai boss Billy Rautenbach and slain mining magnate Brett Kebble — in whose murder Agliotti is the accused.

Cilliers did not deny on Friday that Selebi handed over two documents to Agliotti, which the state considers crucial to its case. These documents are a UK intelligence report detailing Agliotti’s whereabouts, and an email written by former security man Paul O’Sullivan to the Scorpions on alleged criminal activities implicating Agliotti and Selebi.

But Cilliers said the UK report was two years old by the time Selebi showed it to Agliotti, and this was a year after he received his last ”gratification”.

The defence argued the email was not a confidential document. Selebi received it from the press and handed it to Agliotti so that Agliotti’s lawyer could look at it. ”The purpose was clearly not an unlawful purpose, the purpose was to use it in proper legal proceedings by your lawyer,” Cilliers said to Agliotti, who agreed, saying, ”Absolutely.”

A deal with the state
The closest Agliotti came to laying some blame on Selebi was during questions about their relationship with Rautenbach, who was at that stage facing charges of tax evasion, but has since made a deal with the state.

Agliotti said when it came to a payment of $100 000 from Rautenbach, Selebi was aware where his $30 000 slice came from.

Agliotti also testified again that Selebi, the then-Interpol head, obtained information for Rautenbach on whether an international arrest warrant had been issued against him.

Agliotti tried to say this to Cilliers, but he was cut off by the defence lawyer.

”He should be allowed to finish his answer,” interjected state prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

”But you have finished your answer, haven’t you, Mr Agliotti,” said Cilliers.

Judge Meyer Joffe grumbled: ”Let me deal with that,” requesting Agliotti to complete his answer.

”On the Rautenbach matter, that [Selebi’s total innocence] was not the case,” replied Agliotti.

However, turning to Kebble’s payments of about R26-million into an account created for Agliotti to pay Selebi, Cilliers said the former police chief had no idea the money had come from Brett Kebble or his father, Roger.

Selebi allegedly received about R1-million of that money. It is unclear what happened to the remaining R25-million.

”It was never a situation that they [the Kebbles] gave money to the commissioner. They gave you a fee and you were at liberty to do with it what you liked,” Cilliers said to Agliotti.

Agliotti agreed.

Cilliers maintained that Selebi’s dinners with the Kebbles were mere social engagements where they spoke on ”general subjects, politics, general aspects, never on money or favours”.

”That is right,” said Agliotti, who charged Kebble $1-million for his access to Selebi.

”You invited him [Selebi] as a friend for dinner [with Kebble]. The fact that he turns up doesn’t mean that he is corrupt,” said Cilliers.

Agliotti replied: ”No, not to my perception, but when I phoned him he obviously turned up.”

”He never did anything improper or untoward to favour the Kebbles,” the lawyer added, with Agliotti agreeing.

Former chief prosecutor Bulelani Ngcuka — who has been accused by Selebi and Agliotti of hatching a plot against the former top cop — got another mention, but this time it was about pens on planes.

Agliotti testified that he once found himself sitting in business class with Ngcuka, and that he bought him and his wife each a pen.

But this was without him knowing who Ngcuka was, claimed Agliotti.

His explanation for his generosity was simple: ”You have a few glasses of wine and you buy a few articles.”

The trial continues on Tuesday. — Sapa