South Africa

Former head of South African police force guilty of corruption

(Photo: Reuters)

Jackie Selebi, the former head of South Africa's police force, has been found guilty of graft charges. His trial demonstrated clear links to the criminal underworld and he becomes one of the most senior officials to be legally implicated for corruption in South Africa.

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An ex-president of Interpol and ally of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, Selebi was convicted of corruption for accepting bribes from organised crime.

But Judge Meyer Joffe cleared him of defeating the ends of justice.

Selebi maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying the charges were part of a political conspiracy that reached the higher echelons of government.

The trial revealed his links with convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti, who was accused of giving him cash and luxury gifts.

The court found that Selebi took bribes of more than 1.2 million rand (or 122,000 euros) from Agliotti between 2000 and 2005.

The case against Seleb's described his fondness for designer clothing, which it said he obtained from Agliotti by sharing with him classified information during his time as head of the South African Police Service.

While in office, Selebi acknowledged his friendship with Agliotti saying "Glenn Agliotti is my friend, finish and klaar (end of story)."

Selebi was freed on bail, with sentencing set for 14 July.

Background

Known for his angry outbursts and expensive suits, the 60-year-old rose through the ranks of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), playing a key role in the fight against apartheid.

After the fall of the white-minority government in 1994, he occupied top positions in the ANC-led government.

In 2000 former president Thabo Mbeki named him national police commissioner, a job that led to him becoming Interpol's president from 2004 to 2008 - although he had no formal police training.

According to the prosecution, his shady dealings with criminals started during his time with Interpol, where he shared classified police intelligence with criminals in return for favours.

It was Agliotti's drugs conviction that lifted the lid on Selebi's activities, sparking a lengthy investigation into his life.

The probe was marred by political interference which threatened to divide the ruling party.

His first arrest warrant was issued in September 2007 but he was not charged, reportedly due to protection by then-president Thabo Mbeki.

On January 11, 2008, he was charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice due to his friendship with Agliotti.

Mbeki put him on leave the following day, and he resigned as president of Interpol.

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