South Africa ex-police head Selebi guilty of corruption

  • 2 July 2010
  • From the section Africa

A court in South Africa has found the country's former chief of police Jackie Selebi guilty of corruption.

Selebi, also a former president of Interpol, was accused of having links to organised crime and accepting bribes worth 1.2m rand ($156,000, £103,000).

But the court found him not guilty of perverting the course of justice. Selebi had denied both charges.

Correspondents say the nine-month case has been seen as one of the defining trials of post-apartheid South Africa.

The 60-year-old now faces at least 15 years in prison, although he will remain free on bail until his sentencing hearing on 14-15 July and intends to launch an appeal.

He would not comment when leaving the court in Johannesburg.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says intrigue, obfuscation and patronage have characterised this dramatic trial.

In the end though, despite his political links, Selebi has been left crestfallen, guilty of corruption on an obscene scale, she adds.

Designer handbag

At the heart of the allegations was Selebi's relationship with convicted drug smuggler Glen Agliotti, who is also accused of links to the 2005 murder of the prominent mining magnate, Brett Kebble.

Prosecutors alleged that Agliotti, who was also a police informant, paid bribes and made gifts to the national commissioner of the South African Police Service (Saps) in exchange for him turning a blind eye to drugs trafficking.

"When the accused and I met, I enjoyed shopping and so did he. Him being my friend, I would instruct shop attendants to put all the clothes on my account," Agliotti testified at the trial in October.

He said that for Selebi's wife's birthday he had bought her a red patent leather Louis Vuitton handbag which cost 10,000 rand ($1,300; £850).

Selebi's defence lawyers claimed that their client - known for his sharp suits - was a victim of malicious prosecution.

They said it was part of a much wider conspiracy wrapped in political intrigue and allegations of cronyism during the administration of the former President, Thabo Mbeki. Selebi was a close ally of Mr Mbeki, a bitter rival to the incumbent President, Jacob Zuma.

But handing down the guilty verdict on Friday, Judge Meyer Joffe dismissed the defence's argument and said prosecutors had proven that Selebi had received at least 120,000 rand from Agliotti.

"Having due regard to the poor quality of the accused's evidence, the accused's denial of receipt of the payment is not reasonably possibly true," he said.

The judge said Selebi had shown "complete contempt for the truth", including falsely accusing a witness of lying during the trial.

"It is never pleasant to make an adverse credibility finding against a witness. It stigmatises the witness as a liar, a person of low moral fibre. It is a stigma that remains forever.

"It is so much more unpleasant to make such a finding against the person at the head of SAPS," he said.

"He had a low moral fibre and cannot be relied upon."

Selebi was a political appointee and had no previous policing experience when he became the first black SAPS chief in 2000.

He resigned as president of Interpol in 2008 after public prosecutors confirmed charges against him and was suspended by the SAPS.

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