Glenn Agliotti is poised to ask Meyer Joffe — who is already presiding over the Jackie Selebi case — to step down from hearing the tycoon’s murder trial
Adriaan Basson and Sam Sole
The murder trial of mining boss Brett Kebble is expected to get off to a rocky start on Monday with an application for Judge Meyer Joffe to recuse himself from the case.
The Mail & Guardian has learned that Joffe, who is also presiding over former police boss Jackie Selebi’s corruption trial, was recently told that he would be hearing the Kebble murder case.
Both trials are scheduled to resume in the South Gauteng High Court on Monday, but Selebi’s trial will be postponed because of a petition by the State Security Agency (SSA) to the Supreme Court of Appeal to prevent former intelligence coordinator Barry Gilder from testifying.
Joffe dismissed an SSA application last year to have Gilder’s subpoena cancelled and refused the agency leave to appeal. The Supreme Court of Appeal is studying papers filed by both sides and will decide whether to grant a hearing or dismiss the case.
The chance is small that the Kebble murder trial — closely linked to Selebi’s case — will continue in the meanwhile. The only person charged with Kebble’s murder, convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti, is expected to oppose Joffe hearing the case because of the judge’s involvement in the Selebi matter.
“We’re ready to proceed with the trial,” Agliotti’s advocate Laurence Hodes told the M&G. But he said a postponement was likely because Joffe could not preside because of his involvement in the Selebi case.
Joffe has yet to make credibility findings about Agliotti’s lengthy and controversial evidence in the Selebi matter and it could be argued that he has made up his mind about Agliotti — who will now sit in the dock.
If Joffe recuses himself it could take “weeks or months” for a new presiding officer to be appointed, said a source close to the case.
Meanwhile, it seems equally unlikely that Agliotti’s co-accused, Australian businessman John Stratton, will enter the dock with Agliotti any time soon.
Stratton was a director of Kebble’s JCI Group and one of the mining magnate’s closest advisers, but is accused of plotting the Kebble murder with Agliotti. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) appears to have pursued Stratton’s extradition half-heartedly — although a request is understood to have been sent to the Australian authorities.
Stratton’s local attorney, Rael Gootkin, said he had received no formal or informal notification of an extradition plea, but would be keeping a watching brief on Monday’s proceedings.
Although Agliotti will be the only accused in the dock, at least four other people who were allegedly instrumental in the murder will also appear in court.
The trio who allegedly assassinated Kebble — Nigel McGurk, Mikey Schultz and Faizel Smith — have entered into indemnity agreements with the state.
If they testify truthfully and honestly, the presiding judge may decide to grant them amnesty at the end of the trial.
Clinton Nassif, Kebble’s former security chief, who allegedly hired and paid the hitmen, reached a similar deal with the state. All four are expected to testify against Agliotti.
In his evidence in the Selebi trial, Agliotti accused the Scorpions of targeting him to get to Selebi instead of prosecuting the “real” people behind Kebble’s death.
In his first court appearance in December 2006, Agliotti made a plea explanation describing Kebble’s death as “assisted suicide”.
l A war of words has erupted between the NPA and the SSA over alleged attempts to prevent Gilder from being subpoenaed to testify in the Selebi trial.
According to papers filed by the intelligence agency with the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, the NPA did not attempt to resolve the matter amicably, as the Constitution requires. The state, however, maintains that its requests to the country’s spy bosses were ignored.
Gilder’s evidence centres on a draft intelligence estimate that contained a tip-off from businessman Jurgen Kögl that Selebi was receiving money from the Kebbles. Agliotti testified that he was shown this document by Selebi.
The SSA says Gilder did not see this happen and could contribute nothing to the state’s case, whereas the NPA contends Gilder can confirm that Selebi knew about the estimate and could have told Agliotti about it.
The state is also perplexed about why the intelligence agencies are not pursuing criminal charges against Selebi for showing Agliotti classified information “with the same zeal” with which they are attempting to stop Gilder from testifying.