Intelligence IG to probe “Selebi tapes”

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The Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence (OIGI) is to investigate why and on what authority recorded telephone conversations were handed over to lawyers of Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi (pictured) by state security officials.

Selebi was placed on “extended leave” in January last year and was subsequently charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice.

 

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the major Parliamentary opposition party, last week wrote to Inspector-General of Intelligence Zola Ngcakani asking him to probe “possible irregularities surrounding the disclosure of these tapes.”

 

DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard says Ngcakani yesterday replied to her letter, “stating that these tapes will indeed be investigated, since they do indeed pertain to allegations against the intelligence services.”

 

The matter surfaced in the Gauteng South High Court last week when Selebi’s prosecutors cried foul over the police’s decision to declassify the tapes and hand them to Selebi. They claim that they have not heard the recordings. Selebi, meanwhile, believes the tapes will exonerate him.

 

Selebi`s trial on two counts of corruption and one ofdefeating the ends of justice was meant to get underway last Monday following several delays but has again been put off.

State Advocate (prosecutor) Gerrie Nel said it was crucial to Selebi’s fair-trial rights for the State to also have access to all the recordings, made last year and the year before, of, among other people, then Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy and ex-National Prosecuting Authority head Bulelani Ngcuka, who were discussing the prosecution of now President Jacob Zuma and Selebi.

 

Nel`s boss National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe last month controversially withdrew charges of corruption against Zuma and French defence multinational Thales on the basis of the tape-recorded conversations.

 

Mpshe made the decision after Zuma`s lawyers had obtained the tapes from the National Intelligence Agency.Ngcakani is currently also probing that leak.

 

The recording of telephone and other electronic conversations by third parties, including state agencies is tightly controlled by the 2002 Regulation of Interception and Provision of Communication-related Information Amendment Act.

 

Kohler Barnard notes this Act “specifies that intercepted communication material can only be released publically in very specific circumstances.”

 

She says although the state or state officials “may be able to declassify certain material, legislation provides citizens with certain rights to privacy, so it does not automatically follow that such information can be made public, or indeed passed on to third parties such as Mr Selebi`s lawyers. It is unclear that, in this case, the requirements of the legislation were adhered to, and in the absence of this it is incumbent upon the Inspector-General`s office to investigate the matter.”