JACKIE Selebi, South Africa's former police chief and the world's top policeman as president of Interpol until recently, was yesterday convicted of corruption in dealings with South Africa-based mafia don Glenn Agliotti.
Selebi, once also one of the most powerful men in the ruling African National Congress, faces a possible jail term of 15 years when Judge Meyer Joffe pronounces sentence in two weeks time.
Yesterday in Johannesburg's High Court, Judge Joffe pronounced Selebi, 60, national police commissioner from 2000 to 2008, a person with "low moral fibre" who could not be relied upon and who had shown "complete contempt for the truth."
Selebi, who had comported himself with a confidence bordering on cockiness throughout the nine-month trial, listened to the verdict with slumped shoulders while shaking his head disconsolately.
Selebi is by far the highest-ranking ANC official in post-apartheid South Africa to have been convicted of a major offence. The verdict will send tremors through the upper reaches of an increasingly corrupt ANC.
If only a small part of what has emerged in the Selebi trial is true, then the citizens of the Rainbow Nation are living in a gangsters' paradise. The indictment of Selebi, head of Interpol from 2004 to 2008, ran to 335 pages. "It's a story that reveals more than you want to know about the dark side of South Africa," said prize-winning author Rian Malan, who has followed the Selebi saga in detail.The fact is, said Mondli Makhanya, editor-in-chief of the country's most prestigious weekend newspaper, the Sunday Times, that Selebi, in addition to having been South Africa's most powerful policeman, "may also be the country's most powerful gangster."
Selebi was convicted on a single charge of taking bribes worth at least two million rand (103,000] and fashion clothing in return for ignoring Agliotti's drug imports and dealings.
Agliotti, who turned state's evidence in the hope of a lighter sentence in procecutions he faces, testified that money was paid to his former friend in various ways, including delivery in brown envelopes of R100,000 (8,570] at a time by Agliotti's former fiance Dianne Muller. Her evidence confirmed delivery of the envelopes.
Agliotti faces trial for the murder of gold mining billionaire Brett Kebble. He was allegedly at the scene when Kebble was gunned down in his car five years ago near Nelson Mandela's home in northern Johannesburg's smartest suburb, Houghton.
The prosecution has records showing that Agliotti phoned Selebi immediately after Kebble was shot, implying that he informed the police chief that the mining magnate had been taken out successfully.