Round two of former police chief Jackie Selebi’s corruption trial begins on Tuesday in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, with Selebi arguing 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 convicted drug dealer Glenn 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 be heard over two days before a full bench of five judges. Selebi, said to be in poor health, is not likely to appear in person.
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.
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 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, led by advocates Jaap Cilliers SC and Fanus Coetzee, 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.
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.
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