Business, Politics

Bigger fish to fry at Selebi trial

By Branko Brkic 15 October 2009

There seems to be a grander game being played out in court 4B at the South Gauteng High Court, with frequent references to a trial within a trial.

Unless the state is not admitting that it can’t match the cheque counterfoils from Agliotti’s front company, Spring Lights to Jackie Selebi’s bank accounts. Maybe Selebi kept the cash under his mattress. But there are obviously bigger fish to fry – namely, the political “conspiracies” around Mbeki and Zuma, and the arms deal – in light of efforts to close down the Scorpions.

After long technical arguments involving the prosecution, defence and Agliotti’s lawyer, about whether video evidence was admissible and justifiable, Judge Meyer Joffe decided that a videotape (actually, a DVD) of a 2008 interview with Glenn Agliotti by Selebi’s former deputy police commissioner, Mulangi Mphego, was admissible on a preliminary basis. This meant that if there was further dispute about the tape, it could be dealt with again in argument. The defence wanted the tape to be admissible, while the prosecution and Agliotti’s lawyer did not.

By 2008 Mphego was acting chief of crime intelligence, although he himself has now been charged with defeating the ends of justice over his investigation into the activities of the lead prosecutor in the Selebi case, Gerrie Nel – who Selebi once had very publicly arrested. Mphego’s lawyer says he was investigating members of the National Prosecuting Authority for abuse of office, including espionage, corruption, leaking of government information to newspapers, money laundering and blackmail. Phew! And phew again, as images of Thabo Mbeki, Bulelani Ncguka and Vusi Pikoli pop up in the background.

On the tape, Agliotti says the Scorpions were squeezing him on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and the murder of Brett Kebble. “Even if you didn’t pull the trigger, you knew about it,” Agliotti says he was told by the Scorpions, implying it was on the grounds that they didn’t want to be shut down by Selebi. He says the Scorpions and the NPA were a law unto themselves, and that he loathed former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy for splashing his name in the papers as a big drug lord.

“I don’t believe McCarthy is a man of integrity. I don’t like the man, but I have never met him,” Agliotti says to Mphego, adding that chief prosecutor Nel told him the Scorpions would structure the case against him, even though he had said he would give them everything on the “Kebble murder”, tax fraud and other crimes in return for indemnity. “Nel told me in his own words at a restaurant … in Hartebeespoort Dam, that ‘We targeted you and Selebi in the press to get to Selebi’. They targeted me through the Mail & Guardian, all the slander, it was through the Mail & Guardian … The Mail & Guardian is the mouthpiece for the Scorpions,” Agliotti is heard telling Mphego. He says the M&G was briefed by the Scorpions at a “bosberaad”, although the newspaper denied that such a “bosberaad” ever took place.

Agliotti says the press exposure led to a violent robbery at his home, in which female family members were assaulted, and that a special cellphone given to him by the Scorpions so they could listen in on his conversations with Selebi, was stolen. He claims that R4 million worth of goods were stolen. “They ruined my life,” he says, without elaborating.In the video, Agliotti says the Scorpions learned the practice of targeting people through the press in their training by the FBI and CIA. He says they didn’t “give a damn” about Kebble, despite his stealing money from investors. He also says Selebi did not deserve to go through all the publicity he had been through – and that he, Agliotti, didn’t deserve it either.

“Where’s the justice?” he says, referring to the fact that former Kebble security boss Clinton Nassif and three associates, as Kebble murder accused, were promised indemnity if they testified truthfully, while he was put in jail. “He [they] can kill nine, ten, 11 people and get indemnity,” Agliotti says. “These are the real criminals. I’m the one who’s telling the truth, but I’m incarcerated.”

The tape shows a completely different side of Agliotti from the polite and deferential man in the dock in the past few weeks. He speaks like a wide boy to Mphego in a late-night meeting at the Balalaika Hotel in Sandton, laying blame on all but himself. His fluent diatribe echoes the part in the movie “The Usual Suspects”, when the arch-criminal invents a story out of nothing, with Agliotti punctuating his speech with expletives as if he was having an intense conversation over a drink. He is cheeky, cocky, fluent.

The judge castigated the prosecution and defence for the poor and inaccurate transcript that accompanied the video, saying he wanted “serious progress” on the matter. “I clearly cannot accept this as an accurate transcript. There are omissions, mistakes and it requires substantial work,” he said.

Mphego had told Agliotti the videotaped conversation was off the record and for crime intelligence gathering only. Later he asks Agliotti if he wants to give a statement under oath with legal representation, adding he could only cover issues for which Agliotti had not been arrested. Agliotti claims to have attended the meeting of his own free will, and that he felt threatened by Nassif, whom he blames for the “murder” of Kebble. He says Nassif and associates planned and implemented the “murder”, which involved a sum of R1.5 million, because they were in financial trouble, and even conducted dry runs for the hit.

Agliotti says his wife had subsequently gone to meet Nassif in the car park of the Hyde Park shopping centre late at night, where Nassif told her that he wanted Agliotti to corroborate his statement about the death of Kebble. Agliotti refused. “She thought Nassif was going to kill her,” he says. So Agliotti sent Nassif a message telling him to “fuck off”. Agliotti claims the Scorpions intimidated and blackmailed him, saying that if he didn’t testify against Selebi, they would throw the book at him. They had evidence of a big hashish deal with his cousin and fellow drug lord, who Agliotti claims is the real “Landlord”, Stephanos Paparas. This was about the time when Agliotti’s baby was born.

He says the Scorpions told him: “You won’t see that child being born unless you do that plea bargain”. “But the Scorpions needed to take me down – and Nassif’s fucking lying,” Agliotti says, telling Mphego how Clinton Nassif’s friend, Tammo Vink, shot his wife in the stomach when he was high on drugs. He says the Scorpions paid Vink to testify against Selebi. “Nassif’s friend shot his own fucking wife in the stomach when he was high on cocaine,” he says. “They [the Scorpions] paid R2 million to Vink – so I was told – Stratton will confirm this. It was to implicate Selebi.” John Stratton is a former Brett Kebble right-hand man, but now a fugitive in Australia over Kebble’s death.

With cocksure bravado, Agliotti tells Mphego: “They [the Scorpions] told me my case was like that of John Gotti –the [US] mafia boss. I said you’re fucking mad.” He asks how he could have bribed Selebi when he didn’t get the tender for SAPS bullet-proof vests. He was just Selebi’s friend, he says, no doubt thinking to himself, as everyone else in court thought — “finish and klaar”. He tells Mphego about his conversation with the Scorpions where it was clear to everybody that this was politically motivated and driven:  “… Gentlemen, I never bribed the commissioner.”

Agliotti says the charges against him and Selebi were stirred up by former Airports Company of SA security boss at OR Tambo Airport and Selebi nemesis, Paul O’Sullivan, now in exile fearing for his life. O’Sullivan wanted to discredit South Africa [and Selebi] in the eyes of Interpol. “I was associated with the national commissioner [Selebi] as a friend. It was a political game and unfortunately I got caught up in the middle,” he says to Mphego.

Agliotti claims Nassif and associates were involved in the gunning down of Allan Gray investment boss Stephen Mildenhall, and that the Scorpions didn’t know that. “I didn’t kill anybody,” he says. “Nassif should have been in jail, not me. These are the real criminals.”

An interesting statement, considering where it comes from.

By Mark Allix


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