Former police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi admitted on Thursday afternoon to consulting with a state witness after his corruption trial had already begun.
Selebi told the court that he had arranged to meet with police captain Marcus Tema at Café 41 in Pretoria, to ask him about an alleged stolen file which emerged in the evidence of Mark Hankel.
Hankel, the chief information officer of the police’s crime intelligence unit, testified last year that a file containing reports on drug dealer Glenn Agliotti’s alleged involvement in international trafficking went missing from his office in 2006.
The last person who signed out the file was Tema.
The state alleges Selebi showed Agliotti a report compiled by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs informing South Africa of Agliotti’s alleged involvement in the cartel of international fugitive Nelson Yester-Garrido.
‘Why did you steal a file?’
The investigation was called Operation Chaser.
Selebi testified on Thursday afternoon that he had met Tema at the coffee shop after hearing Hankel’s evidence on November 12 last year. “I asked him: ‘Why did you steal a file?'”
“Do you know what you’ve just admitted to?” asked chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel. “You admitted to consulting with a state witness while the state was still presenting its case.”
In SA law, the accused are forbidden from speaking to people on the state’s witness list during the first part of the trial.
Tema was never called to testify, but the state obtained a sworn statement from him in November last year.
“I did not know that Tema was a state witness,” insisted Selebi, saying he “pleads guilty” if he had been mistaken.
Nel put it to him that he must have known Tema was a state witness because his own counsel, advocate Jaap Cilliers, read parts of Tema’s statement to Hankel during cross-examination.
“I put it to you this morning that you handed in a false document, and then on the same day I put it to you that you consulted with a state witness. Why do you do that?” asked Nel.
Selebi said Nel was wrong on the issue of the “fabricated” document, but conceded he may be right regarding him speaking to Tema.
Nel then asked for an adjournment until April 28 to start cross-examining Selebi about “the money issues”.
Judge Meyer Joffe said he was delighted at the adjournment since he was “physically and mentally exhausted”.
Selebi faces charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice.