/ 17 November 2009

Pikoli takes stand and tells of blackmail attempt

Former police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi allegedly tried to blackmail former prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli into dropping charges against controversial Zimbabwean businessman Billy Rautenbach.

Pikoli testified in Selebi’s corruption trial on Tuesday morning that on a trip with Selebi to the Eastern Cape in 2005, Selebi said to him: ‘You guys, why are you not dropping the charges against Rautenbach?”

Pikoli replied: ‘Why should we?” to which Selebi allegedly responded: ‘Because I am in possession of a letter that can cause embarrassment to Mr [Bulelani] Ngcuka [Pikoli’s predecessor] and the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority].”

Pikoli said he had then ‘dismissed the matter”.

Pikoli was referring to a letter from Ngcuka to Rautenbach’s lawyer, James Ramsay, in which Selebi claims Ngcuka attempted to illicit a bribe from Rautenbach.

An infuriated Pikoli also told the court that contrary to Selebi’s plea explanation, that was read out to court on the first day of the trial, he had never been called into Selebi’s office to discuss Pikoli’s wife’s shares in empowerment company Vulisango, the main shareholder of mining company Simmer & Jack.

Selebi’s counsel Jaap Cilliers put it to Pikoli that Simmer & Jack was part of slain mining magnate Brett Kebble’s ‘stable”.

In his plea explanation, Selebi accused Pikoli and his wife of receiving shares from Kebble in exchange for him [Pikoli] dropping fraud charges against Kebble father, Roger, and his company Skilled Labour Brokers.

Raising his voice, Pikoli said: ‘I was sort of angry when a statement was made on the first day of this trial because it was an absolute lie that the accused at any stage called me to his office to confront me. That certain words were said at that meeting was an absolute lie, he did not ever not ever summon me to his office to raise the question of shares.”

Pikoli also said he was not aware that Vulisango had any relation to JCI and the Kebbles.

When chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Pikoli about Selebi’s allegation that Ngcuka attempted to bribe Rautenbach, he responded: ‘It was equally astonishing for him to have said what he said to this court. [It was not discussed] at all.”