The case of the ex-prez's drug-money shoes
- Branko Brkic
- 07 Oct 2009 (South Africa)
The third day of the Selebi corruption trial began with the State attempting to correct a potentially disastrous “typo” on the charge sheet. Soon after the mistake was fixed, Agliotti testified to buying a pair of shoes for Thabo Mbeki.
Self-confessed drug kingpin Glen Agliotti was in the South Gauteng High Court early this morning. He was laughing, chatting on his phone, greeting everybody. When a court official asked him to step down from the witness box – where he had helpfully placed himself – he quickly agreed, taking a seat opposite Jackie Selebi’s defense team. He straightened his lapels and extended his jaw, staring at the world with a slight tilt of the head, a gesture not unlike Marlon Brando’s in Godfather 3.
It would be at least two and a half hours before Agliotti took the stand again. First, the court had to deal with the small matter of mistakes on the charge sheet – the State had admitted to providing certain incorrect dates, an oversight that could see important evidence scrapped.
“I am embarrassed…there was a typing error,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel told Judge Meyer Joffe.
Nel, it appeared, had allowed the charge sheet to be submitted with the year “2005” substituted for “2006” in a number of key instances. The “typo”, if not corrected by the court, would subtract a year off the time period that former national police commissioner Selebi was purported to have committed his crimes.
Defense attorney Jaap Cilliers objected to Nel’s attempt to have the charge sheet amended, arguing that the State was being “opportunistic”. If Judge Joffe disallowed the amendment, it would mean that evidence of an alleged sharing of secret information between Selebi and Agliotti, regarding a UK investigation into the latter’s drug smuggling activities, would be inadmissible. After a short recess, Joffe instructed the court that the application for amendments would be granted.
Agliotti continued to testify at around 11.45am, responding to questions put by Nel regarding a series of invoices. It emerged from the questions that Agliotti allegedly bought an expensive tie for Selebi, as well as a pair of shoes.
“I definitely bought shoes for the accused,” said Agliotti.
“And for who else?” asked Nel.
“One other person.”
“The ex-president of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.”
Agliotti explained that he was with Selebi and Mbeki – who was still president at the time – in Gray’s, an upmarket retail store. Selebi was looking to buy Mbeki a pair of shoes. “I asked the shop assistant to put them on my account as I wished to purchase them for the president,” said Agliotti.
The remainder of the pre-lunch session dealt with a report compiled by UK law enforcement authorities codenamed “Operation Extine”, which focused on the drug trafficking activities of Agliotti. In leading evidence, Nel attempted to show that both Agliotti and Selebi had seen the report.
“Have you ever been confronted by any SAP officer about drug trafficking?” asked Nel.
“No,” said Agliotti.
By Kevin Bloom
SEE ALSO: Worms squeezed out of can at Selebi trial (TDM's coverage of day two of the trial)
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