22 July 2024 | 04:33 AM

Selebi clings to ‘conspiracy’ claim

Key Takeaways

Round two of former police chief Jackie Selebi’s corruption trial is set to begin on Tuesday next week 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.

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 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.

Targetted

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.

Simelane: fit and proper?

Next Monday the appeal court is also due to hear an appeal by the Democratic Alliance against the North Gauteng High Court’s rejection of its application to set aside President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Simelane as the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP). The DA claims that Simelane is not “a fit and proper person” for the job.

Since his appointment as NDPP last year, Simelane has been shrouded in controversy.

Former parliamentary speaker Frene Ginwala, in her inquiry into the suspension of former NPA chief Vusi Pikoli in 2007, in which Simelane played a role as the director general of justice, found that he had been unreliable and arrogant.

After his appointment as director of public prosecutions, Simelane removed Nel and the team prosecuting Brett Kebble’s murder case, in which Agliotti was an accused. He was later acquitted.

Nel was also removed from prosecuting the case against former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego, who was charged with defeating the ends of justice. His case was later struck off the court roll because of the state’s delays in pursuing the matter.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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