Brett Kebble’s former strongman described in vivid detail this week the violence and deceit that lay beneath the surface of Kebble’s opulent life.
Clinton Nassif, former owner of the Central National Security Group, is the state’s key witness in its case against convicted drug-dealer Glenn Agliotti, the only person charged with Kebble’s murder on September 27 2005. Nassif took the stand in the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday.
He testified that he met Agliotti on the golf course in 2003, where they “started discussing business”. Nassif told Agliotti he was “doing security, investigations”. Agliotti told him he was working for Brett Kebble.
A week later Agliotti invited Nassif to a breakfast meeting in Sandton.
“He spoke about what he did for the Kebbles. I gave him advice about the things they were doing. He told me he was working with Palto, a team under [former police boss] Jackie Selebi. He told me he was friends with Jackie [Selebi]; they worked on investigations.”
Nassif said Agliotti suggested that he should start working for Kebble and his business partner, Australian John Stratton, who they flew down to Cape Town to meet.
It was agreed that Nassif and his security firm would do work for the Kebbles, but Agliotti told him: “I handle the Kebbles and Stratton. Any meetings with them go through me.”
At a meeting with Stratton — at that stage a director of JCI, of which Kebble was chief executive — he was told about the company’s interests and where JCI’s “problems were coming from”.
Nassif was contracted to “get information and do surveillance”, including “bugging people’s motor vehicles” and tapping “many people’s phones” for Kebble and Stratton. In one case child pornography was planted on a JCI employee’s computer.
According to Nassif, he was given a list of people to spy on, including former Durban Roodepoort Deep boss Mark Wellesley-Wood, Uranium One chief executive Jean Nortier and Randgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow.
“We had to get bank statements, keep tabs on everyone [who was] against them [Kebble and Stratton],” Nassif testified.
He also told the Kebbles he could bribe prosecutors and magistrates. One case against Roger Kebble, Brett’s father, “fell away and we got favoured”.
‘Something had to be done’
Kebble and Stratton’s alleged methods were at their crudest in the shooting of former Allan Gray chief investment officer Stephen Mildenhall, who flew from London on Wednesday to testify in the trial. Mildenhall stood in the way of a large Investec loan to JCI.
Nassif said that in mid-2005 Agliotti and Stratton gave him names of people “who … had to be taken care of”.
“In one meeting Mildenhall came up. I was informed by Agliotti and Stratton that Mildenhall was the real, real problem. Something had to be done.”
At a meeting at Stratton’s Cape Town house, “Stratton said he wanted this thing done” and pointed a sushi knife at Nassif.
Nassif said: “I wasn’t willing to take on the job of killing Mildenhall.” They renegotiated with Stratton and Agliotti, who agreed that Mildenhall should be “taken out of the system for three to six months” (see accompanying article).
Nassif also revealed for the first time that Brett Kebble’s father, Roger, knew about his son’s plans to die. After Nassif was asked by Brett Kebble and Stratton to find a pill that could induce a heart attack, Nassif went to Roger’s house at night and told him his son had “crazy” plans.
“He [Roger Kebble] freaked out, saying since he [Brett] was a teenager, when things got hard, he always threatened this [suicide] … we left it at that.” When Brett Kebble found out Nassif had told his father, “he blasted me from a dizzy height”.
- Meanwhile, the M&G has learned that charges of tax evasion and tax fraud were laid against Agliotti at the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria this week.
They are understood to flow from a confidential inquiry by the South African Revenue Service into Agliotti’s tax affairs, which the M&G revealed in late 2008.
Bumbling bravado of the three stooges and their handler
The Kebble trial this week gave a glimpse into the world of South Africa’s short-haired musclemen, who kill for cash. And ruthlessly efficient professionalism was not a quality they brought to mind.
The three stooges took the stand in the South Gauteng High Court to explain the murder of Kebble and the shooting of Mildenhall in 2005.
Boxer Mikey Schultz, rugby player-turned-bouncer Nigel McGurk and panelbeater Faizel “Kappie” Smith took turns in relaying the muddled events that left Mildenhall shot in the shoulder and Kebble dead.
In chillingly calm tones they described the plans that led to the hit on Mildenhall, who was calling for Kebble’s removal as chief executive of JCI.
Smith, who admits to being paid for “intimidating people and beating people up”, said: “We wanted him taken out of action.” McGurk referred to “taking him [Mildenhall] out of commission”; Schultz said that they “wanted him taken care of”.
The men did not know Mildenhall and, according to Smith, did not even know what he looked like. They weren’t making any money from the job — but the Kebbles’ security chief, Clinton Nassif, assured them that Kebble would look after them financially.
On the way to Cape Town, the trio’s hired BMW 4X4 ran over a “little buck”. They had left their cellphones at home to avoid being traced and had to use a payphone to contact Nassif, who drove down to Colesberg. The three hitchhiked a ride to the sleepy Karoo town and Nassif rented them a Volkswagen Citi Golf to continue to Cape Town. Once there, the Mildenhall shooting was sub-sub-contracted to “two guys at a taxi rank” in Claremont, Cape Town, for R150 000. Smith had found them through “a family member”.
The shooters staked out the wrong house for three days, mixing up roads with streets, McGurk testified. The shooters waited for Mildenhall to return home from work and shot him in both shoulders. Mildenhall, now resident in the UK, still has pain and has restricted movement in his left shoulder, he testified on Wednesday.
The shooters kept Mildenhall’s driver’s licence “to prove that we had done the job”, said McGurk.
Smith threw the gun into the sea. Mildenhall’s wallet and credit cards were burned under a bridge en route to Johannesburg.
In Johannesburg, Smith dropped off his accomplices and then “went to fetch my kid from school”.
Smith told the court that a few weeks later Schultz had approached him at his panelbeating shop to say: “Kebble wants to go.”
Through messages passed from Nassif through Schultz to McGurk and Smith, the three planned to carry out the “assisted suicide” of Kebble for R500 000 each, by feigning a hijacking.
On September 22 2005, the night originally planned for the job, it was called off. “I was furious; it was the only thing on my mind all night. I even took a shower,” said McGurk.
At the next attempt, on September 26, Schultz’s wife’s black Golf GTI, which they used for the hit, overheated and they had to head home.
Kebble was “furious” and told Nassif “we didn’t know what we were putting him through”, according to Schultz.
The next night, Schultz’s gun jammed at the first two attempts. On the third attempt “Kebble rolled down the window and that was the first time I ever saw him,” said Schultz. “I pulled the trigger and the gun fired.”
McGurk testified he was upset that Schultz had told Nassif about the mishaps. “The car overheated, the gun jammed — it didn’t look too professional.” — Additional reporting by Sam Sole
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, supported by M&G Media and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, produced this story.”www.amabhungane.co.za.