Court finds Selebi guilty

Jackie Selebi, the former head of the South African Police Service and Interpol president, was convicted on one count of corruption by Judge Meyer Joffe on Friday afternoon.

Asked for comment Selebi (60) said he had “nothing, absolutely nothing” to say as he left court with a small group of family and friends.

Selebi now faces the prospect of spending 15 years in prison as the crime of corruption carries a minimum sentence in South Africa.

Judge Joffe postponed sentencing procedures to July 14.

In his judgement, Joffe rejected Selebi’s defence of a conspiracy against him by the Scorpions, and accepted the state’s argument that Selebi was corrupted by convicted drug-trafficker Glenn Agliotti.

In return for R1,2-million and clothes for him and his family, Selebi showed Agliotti top-secret reports and attended meetings with underworld characters whenever Agliotti wanted him to.

Joffe slammed Selebi in his judgement, encouraging other police officers not to “emulate” his behaviour.

“It is never pleasant to make an adverse credibility finding against a witness. His word cannot be relied upon again. The stigma remains forever. It is even more unpleasant to make that finding against a person who is the head of the SAPS.

“Every day society in general rely on the honesty and truthfulness of policemen and -women … It is not an example that must be emulated by members of the SAPS. A great deal of trust is placed on their integrity and credibility.”

While saying this, Selebi was shaking his head in the dock.

Big five lies

Joffe pointed out that Selebi’s counsel had not once tried to contradict state prosecutor Gerrie Nel’s accusations that Selebi told the “big five lies”.

He added that Selebi’s meeting with policeman Captain Marcus Tema while Tema was a state witness and the state’s case was still ongoing, showed a “lack of respect” for the trial.

The trial has been dramatic — Agliotti wept on the stand while talking about the pain he felt at testifying against his “friend” and Selebi was accused of creating “cut-and-paste documents” to show in court.

Joffe built a fraught relationship with state prosecutor Gerrie Nel and defence counsel Jaap Cilliers, sometimes struggling to hide his agitation with Nel’s fumbles and “taking umbrage” with Cilliers’ regular protests.

While the defence claimed that Agliotti was “untruthful” and obsessed with self-progress, the state accused Selebi of being a “lying witness”.

Selebi’s counsel, advocate Jaap Cilliers, claimed that Selebi was the victim of a “malicious prosecution” and maintained that Selebi never received a single payment from Agliotti. However, Muller said she witnessed money changing hands between Selebi and Agliotti in a brown paper bag.

Joffe spent Thursday recapping the vast amount of evidence presented to him by the defence and the prosecution in the high court in Johannesburg.

It included an application for his own recusal and an application to have the matter struck off the roll.

It began with newspaper reports that Selebi may face charges of corruption and defeating and obstructing the administration of justice for allegedly receiving money from Agliotti, from the account of slain mining boss Brett Kebble, in exchange for favours.

Video accepted as evidence

On Thursday Joffe accepted as evidence a copy of a recorded meeting between Agliotti and former spy boss Mulangi Mphego Mphego on January 7 2008 at the Villa Via Hotel in Sandton. At the meeting Agliotti slammed the Scorpions investigation of him and Selebi and alleged the Scorpions had conspired with the M&G to bring them down.

The video was produced by Selebi’s advocate, Jaap Cilliers, during cross-examination of Agliotti and entered as preliminary evidence. But Joffe found on Thursday that, even though it might have been obtained unconstitutionally, it was in the interests of justice for the video to be accepted as evidence.

Joffe proceeded with a lengthy analysis of all the undisputed evidence in the case, including large parts of Agliotti’s testimony.

This included:

  • His acceptance of Agliotti’s version of the 2002 Kya Sands Mandrax bust, that Agliotti tipped off Selebi beforehand, but that Selebi continued to approve the payment of a R500 000 reward to police informant Paul Stemmet;
  • Agliotti’s evidence of meetings with Zimbabwean businessman Billy Rautenbach to discuss getting a South African arrest warrant against him withdrawn;
  • Agliotti’s evidence, confirmed by Rautenbach, that he got paid $100 000 for bringing Selebi to the table during meetings with Rautenbach’s lawyers about getting the warrant withdrawn;
  • Agliotti’s evidence that he set up a meeting between Brett Kebble business partner John Stratton, former judge Willem Heath (who was working for the Kebbles), Selebi and other senior policemen to discuss the investigation of the Kebbles by private investigators on the instructions of mining boss Mark Wellesley-Wood;
  • Agliotti’s evidence about a meeting at the house of businessman Gavin Varejes, attended by Selebi and senior South African Revenue Service personnel;
  • The setting up of a company called Spring Lights by Agliotti and Kebble (from which Selebi was paid, according to Agliotti) and deposits totalling almost R40-million paid into this account by Kebble’s mining houses;
  • The evidence of police reservist Aubrey Schlugman that Agliotti gave him his cellphone at the scene of a housebreaking and Selebi, on the other end of the line, told Schlugman to “look after” Agliotti who was a “good friend of mine”; and
  • The evidence of top crime intelligence official, Mark Hankel, that a file containing documents from the British authorities in relation to allegations of drug-trafficking against Agliotti was removed from crime intelligence by two police officers. Agliotti alleged Selebi showed him these documents. Joffe noted that Selebi called neither of these police officers to testify for him.

Joffe also emphasised each of the meetings former NPA boss Vusi Pikoli had with former president Thabo Mbeki and then justice minister Brigitte Mabandla to inform them about the Selebi investigation.

Mbeki suspended Pikoli in September 2007 after he obtained warrants of arrest and search against Selebi. At the time it was alleged Pikoli did not keep Mbeki and Mabandla abreast of the Selebi investigation, but this was refuted during the Ginwala Inquiry.

Joffe further ruled someone was trying to influence the proceedings of the Selebi trial by leaking a video to City Press containing another recorded meeting with Agliotti on January 4 2008. While the trial was running, an article appeared in the newspaper quoting Agliotti at a meeting he attended at the Balalaika Hotel in Sandton with Mphego and former National Intelligence Agency boss Manala Manzini.

Joffe described Agliotti as a “large man of imposing appearance” who is “relatively well-spoken” and “extremely well-dressed”. He said Agliotti “lacked no confidence” and that he “deliberately gave the court the impression he likes the better things in life”.

Joffe detailed the evidence of KPMG forensic auditor Dean Friedman about cheques drawn against the Spring Lights account. He focused on the absence of cash withdrawals from Selebi’s bank at the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006, shortly after Agliotti claimed he paid Selebi more than R300 000 in cash.

This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest.

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Matuma Letsoala
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Mandy Rossouw
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