When Brett Kebble went down in corporate South Africa’s most spectacular homicide, the crime was “solved” by any ordinary standard.
The “perpetrators” were named, each and every one of them, from the muscle Mikey Schultz, Faizel “Kappie” Smith and Nigel McGurk), on upwards to their Hugo Boss-clad capo (Clint Nassif) and his wannabe-don associate (Glenn Agliotti), to the victim’s own sinister consiglieri (John Stratton).
So comprehensively was the crime “solved” that only one of these men, Stratton, did not confess.
And then on Thursday, Judge Frans Kgomo discharged Agliotti, the only man charged.
It was a miscarriage of justice, though none of Kgomo’s making.
Between the crime and culmination of the trial lay four years marked by a drought of political, prosecutorial and investigatory will.
The investigation was conceived in the rough-and-tumble of the adversarial relationship between the police and now-disbanded Scorpions, the latter throwing caution to the wind when tantalising details emerged of contact, including on the night of the crime, between Agliotti and then police chief Jackie Selebi.
Kgomo remarked that the “power play” between the agencies had led to the Kebble murder case playing “second fiddle” to the corruption prosecution of Selebi.
Indeed, lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel and lead investigator Andrew Leask were so much on a mission that they negotiated remarkably lenient deals where they believed these would help them floor Selebi.
Schultz and his associates and Nassif were offered indemnity in the Kebble murder trial if they testified truthfully.
Nassif and Agliotti got off very lightly in a serious drugs trial.
And the question looms large: Did they too readily believe the “assisted suicide” story told by their witnesses — and by Agliotti himself in the December 2006 confession he later got Kgomo to throw out of court — because it allowed all concerned a way to save face for not confronting the serious crime of murder seriously enough?
The investigators and prosecutors may have been justified in striking deals to get at Selebi, but they failed in the investigation of this crime. For once, new prosecuting boss Menzi Simelane may not have been altogether wrong when he removed Nel from the case, as Nel was conflicted between the two matters.
But it was a pity Simelane obfuscated, as he is so wont to do and left it so late and removed the entire team. It left an ill-prepared, bewildered new team, not up to the task.
As Agliotti waltzes off, he will thank a system that has failed justice.
The question is who decided not to push for the extradition of Agliotti’s intended co-accused, Stratton, from Australia and why?
Why has the crime spree that presumably under-pinned the murder/suicide — Kebble and his associates’ theft of hundreds and hundreds of millions from the Randgold/JCI stable — not been prosecuted?
These men have cocked a snook at justice and got away with it in the full glare of sunlight.
This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest. www.amabhungane.co.za.