Jackie Selebi, the former national police commisioner and Interpol chief, has been found guilty of corruption during his 2000 to 2009 tenure. He is the first serving police commissioner ever convicted of crime.
South Gauteng High Court Judge Meyer Joffe said he found Selebi, an ally of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, guilty of corruption but not guilty of defeating the ends of justice.
The Mail & Guardian newspaper says the conviction follows a four-and-a-half year investigation. It adds that two-and-a-half years have elapsed since charges were first laid. The case has been postponed to July 14 for sentencing.
Joffe repotedly lashed out at Selebi’s unreliable conduct as a witness. “It is never pleasant to make an adverse credibility finding against a witness,” said Joffe. “It stigmatises the witness as a liar, a person of low moral fibre. It is a stigma that remains forever. It is so much more unpleasant to make such a finding against the person at the head of SAPS [South African Police Service]. Every person relies on honesty of policemen and women. He has not set an example that must be emulated.”
He added that Selebi’s meeting with policeman Captain Marcus Tema while Tema was a state witness and the state’s case was still ongoing, showed a “lack of respect” for the trial.
The state claimed that Selebi took more than R1.2-million from drug dealer Glenn Agliotti, and received expensive gifts of clothing, in what was a “generally corrupt relationship”. Selebi was also accused of defeating the ends of justice by showing Agliotti secret police reports.
The trial had been dramatic — Agliotti wept on the stand while talking about the pain he felt at testifying against his “friend” and Selebi was accused of creating “cut-and-paste documents” to show in court. Joffe built a fraught relationship with state prosecutor Gerrie Nel and defence counsel Jaap Cilliers, sometimes struggling to hide his agitation with Nel’s fumbles and “taking umbrage” with Cilliers’ regular protests.
While the defence claimed that Agliotti was “untruthful” and obsessed with self-progress, the state accused Selebi of being a “lying witness”, the M&G reported. Selebi’s counsel, advocate Jaap Cilliers, claimed that Selebi was the victim of a “malicious prosecution” and maintained that Selebi never received a single payment from Agliotti. However, a state witness said she witnessed money changing hands between Selebi and Agliotti in a brown paper bag.