17 April 2024 | 09:51 PM

State eyes Selebi’s goods

Key Takeaways

As Judge Meyer Joffe summed up the factual evidence against former police chief Jackie Selebi on Thursday, other government agencies were lurking in the wings to pounce if there was a guilty verdict.

Senior officials from the national prosecuting authority’s (NPA) asset forfeiture unit (AFU) and senior Hawks member Piet Viljoen were in the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday to listen to Joffe’s­ marathon judgement.

He was expected to deliver his ­verdict on Friday.

The AFU’s presence indicates it is prepared to grab Selebi’s assets, including his luxury Waterkloof house in Pretoria and vehicles belonging to the family, if Joffe ­convicts the former police chief of corruption.

And Viljoen’s attendance strongly suggests the police are waiting to hear whether Joffe’s judgement will implicate senior police officers who supported Selebi. Viljoen is a close confidant of Hawks head Anwa Dramat and it is known that the Jacob Zuma administration’s head of police, General Bheki Cele, wants to rid the South African Police Service of Selebi loyalists.

According to a senior security establishment source, most of Selebi’s loyal lieutenants, including former spy boss Mulangi Mphego and head of investigations Tim Williams, have already left the SAPS.

Selebi’s loyal former deputy, Lieutenant General André Pruis, is heading World Cup security but is said to be retiring when the tournament finishes.

The Mail & Guardian was told Viljoen’s presence indicates the police would consider taking action against police officers implicated by Joffe in wrongdoing.

By close of business on Thursday, Joffe had summed up most of the factual background to the case that ran for a total of 53 court days, but he had not dealt with the credibility of main state witness Glenn Agliotti or Selebi.

Thursday morning started well for Selebi when Joffe accepted as evidence a copy of a recorded meeting between Agliotti and 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”.

After a short lunch break — by which time Joffe had made it clear he would not complete his judgement on Thursday — he cut to the heart of the matter: the testimony and documentary evidence relating to Agliotti’s alleged payment of just over R1-million to Selebi.

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.

Joffe also dwelt on Agliotti’s ex-fiancée Dianne Muller’s testimony of her alleged direct and indirect knowledge of cash payments to Selebi. At 2.40pm Joffe concluded his dealing with the factual background and turned to the relevant legal principles necessary to convict an accused.

He emphasised he would have to acquit Selebi if his version was “reasonably possibly true”. But in another indication of the way he might be heading, he paused for emphasis after saying: “There may be cases where the state’s case is so convincing that it precludes the possibility of the accused’s version being reasonably possibly true.”

As Joffe was about to launch into the credibility of Selebi and Agliotti, he looked up, asked counsel whether they were comfortable with a break, and adjourned for the day.

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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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