Selebi appeal argument concludes on the first day

Defence lawyers for former national police chief Jackie Selebi completed their presentation to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Tuesday.

The hearing will resume on Wednesday with prosecutor Gerrie Nel first in line to take the floor.

Last year, Selebi was sentenced by the South Gauteng High Court to a 15-year jail term for corruption after accepting payments from convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti.

He appealed against his conviction and was given the go-ahead to approach the SCA on certain grounds.

His counsel, Jaap Cilliers SC, began his presentation by asking the five judges to look carefully at Agliotti’s testimony as state witness in the corruption trial.

“You should very seriously evaluate the opportunistic conduct of witnesses.”

Cilliers also indicated that he would not continue the argument on Selebi’s credibility further on appeal.

The former top cop’s defence ended the day in a debate on what Selebi though or might have thought the “gratification” was for and at what point “corruption” would have entered the fray.

Corrupt payments
It was also argued that it was unlikely that Agliotti made notes on cheque counterfoils to keep track of corrupt payments to former Selebi.

“If there was an untoward relation between Agliotti and Selebi it would be highly unlikely that one would leave inscriptions “as evidence”.

Last year, Selebi was sentenced in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to a 15-year jail term for corruption after holding he accepted payments from Agliotti.

Cilliers spent most of Tuesday morning arguing the trial court’s findings on payments to Selebi and the aspects corroborating the evidence from Agliotti’s testimony.

Referring to the inscription of “COP”, “Chief” and “JS” on cheque counterfoils, Cilliers said this could mean anything.

“If you find that ‘JS’ stands for Jackie Selebi, ‘chief’ stands for Jackie Selebi it’s the end of my case,” he argued.

Cilliers also could not explain the inscriptions when asked by Judge Kenneth Mthiyane to explain their meaning in the context of the case.

“I do not know,” he said.

Lies
Selebi’s defence counsel also submitted there was doubts whether a R30 000 payment he was convicted on was intended for him.

Cilliers said there was a reasonable possibility that the money went to something else on Agliotti’s own testimony. Earlier, Cilliers submitted there were people “out there” that spread lies to discredit Selebi.

He said these lies may have led to evidence at the trial that may not be true.

“We had a group of witnesses, very opportunistic people,” he argued, also submitting this was illustrated by the evidence of Agliotti during the trial.

Replying to questions on findings on Selebi’s credibility, Cilliers said the trial court was entitled to “do some credibility findings” in regard to the former top cop.

“In some respects justified,” he said.

Cilliers indicated that he would not continue the argument on Selebi’s credibility further on appeal.

Conspiracy
Selebi has argued that he was the victim of a conspiracy by the now-disbanded Scorpions.

Selebi was granted leave to appeal against his graft conviction in July last year after the South Gauteng High Court found him guilty of receiving R166 000 in bribes from Agliotti in return for showing the latter top-secret police reports.

He was sentenced to 15 years in jail but remains at liberty pending the outcome of his appeal which will be heard over two days before a full bench of five judges.

Selebi is also appealing against the court’s finding that Agliotti received benefits from Selebi in return for money and gifts.

The appeal court extended Selebi’s grounds for appeal earlier this year after a successful application by his legal team.

High court Judge Meyer Joffe accepted the state’s evidence that Selebi had shown Agliotti a portion of both a national intelligence estimate report and a confidential report from the United Kingdom.

Selebi’s strategy
It is understood that the thrust of Selebi’s appeal strategy will be that he is the victim of a larger political conspiracy, based on the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to probe the prosecuting team in the Selebi matter, led by advocate Gerrie Nel.

Senior NPA sources say there is a “perception” in some NPA units that prosecutions chief Menzi Simelane’s sanctioning of the investigation will aid Selebi’s cause.

The probe came after Selebi’s conviction, when the former police chief claimed publicly that he had “discovered [information] suggesting that the investigation and prosecution which led to my conviction have been improper”.

At the time, sources close to the Selebi and Agliotti matters said Selebi’s submission related to the conduct of Nel and his team.

Since his arrest in September 2007 and throughout his five-month trial last year, Selebi has insisted he is the victim of a Scorpions plot.

In the heads of argument under “preliminary issues”, Selebi’s defence team claims that the Scorpions were driven by a desperate desire to avoid being disbanded, and that investigators “fabricated” and “manipulated” evidence against the police commissioner.

Targeted
Selebi claims that he was targeted because he supported the move to disband the unit.

The defence further argues that the Scorpions’ investigation of Selebi and his ultimate arrest were precipitated by a probe that he launched into alleged fraud and theft by senior Scorpions officials and Nel.

In its heads of argument, the state dismisses these claims as “a reflection of the appellant’s [Selebi’s] less than respectful attitude towards the courts. The appellant has persisted in dealing therein with issues on which he was refused leave to appeal.”

Selebi’s lawyers argue that the state “did not provide much further details” regarding Agliotti’s alleged payments to him, and that it “refused to provide copies” of bank statements, cheques and counterfoils from the Spring Lights account, from which Selebi was paid.

These claims may form part of an attack on the state’s star witness, Agliotti’s ex-fiancée Dianne Muller, whose testimony the court found credible.

The defence claims that Muller had received large amounts of money from Agliotti through the Spring Lights account and may, therefore, have had a motive for lying. — Sapa, M&G Reporter

For coverage of former police chief Jackie Selebi’s corruption trial and aftermath, visit our special report.

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