The State’s star witness Glenn Agliotti got it from all sides on Friday. With cross-examination drawing to a close, expert defence silk Jaap Cilliers shored up his two-prong strategy – either the drug peddler’s contradictory testimony gets thrown out, or evidence of a “generally corrupt relationship” gets nixed.
Defence counsel Jaap Cilliers opened proceedings in the Selebi trial on Friday by telling Judge Meyer Joffe he would be “extremely brief” in his cross-examination of Glenn Agliotti regarding a DVD that had provisionally been admitted to the court record. The DVD, which was screened in court on Thursday, shows the State’s star witness in conversation with former deputy police commissioner, Mulani Mphego. It is, by all accounts, an explosive piece of evidence.
Cilliers had a simple question for Agliotti on the subject: was he lying to Mphego?
“There were one or two exaggerations,” said Agliotti, thereby re-emphasising a theme that the defence had been teasing out all week – the reliability of his testimony under oath. This time, though, Agliotti’s answers turned out not to be so damaging to his standing. In the first instance, he said, he’d referred in the meeting to his advocate when he meant his lawyer, and in the second instance he’d quoted State prosecutor Gerrie Nel as saying he “didn’t give a damn about the Kebble murder,” when in fact it wasn’t Nel, but someone else.
Satisfied, Cilliers continued. “My impression, Mr Agliotti, was that you were in control of the situation. My impression was that Mr Mphego was just a listener. Do you agree?”
“I agree,” responded Agliotti.
It was a line of questioning clearly set up to establish the strength of the DVD as evidence – and to back up a previous statement of Cilliers that the DVD’s contents could very well amount to the end of the State’s case. In brief, the DVD deals with Agliotti’s assertion to Mphego that senior members of the Scorpions had told him they weren’t interested in who killed mining magnate Brett Kebble – a matter in which Agliotti stands accused – but were actually after the hide of former national police commissioner Selebi. If accepted as true, the DVD exposes a long-term vendetta against Selebi by the very entity that is now trying to prosecute him in the South Gauteng High Court.
The primary reason the Scorpions were “obsessed” with taking down Selebi, Agliotti alleges in the DVD, is that they wanted to remain a separate entity – they were dead against being incorporated into the police.
Cilliers then left the subject of the Scorpions and their motives, moving on to two payments that Agliotti had allegedly made to Selebi. As he had done for much of his cross-examination, and in particular on Wesdnesday (see “What does Agliotti fear more than prison?”), Cilliers once again set out to show up Agliotti as a liar.
The larger of these two payments was for R200,000, which, as Agliotti testified during evidence-in-chief, he handed to Selebi in cash on December 13 2004.
“I have a terrible surprise for you, Mr Agliotti,” said Cilliers. “The accused was indeed not available on the 13th, he was with members of the police force and state ministers who can act as witnesses.”
Agliotti quickly responded that it might have been December 14. “I am, as you say, leaving the back door open.”
Cilliers smiled widely. “Well, I am now going to close the back door for you, Mr Agliotti. The accused was in Upington on 14 and 15 December, and we have copies of the pilot’s log to show he flew on the morning of December 14.”
Still, Agliotti stuck to the story that he gave Selebi the money, arguing that if his dates were incorrect during testimony, then so be it.
The next matter to which Cilliers referred was a payment of US$40,000 that Agliotti had allegedly received from ex-Hyundai boss Billy Rautenbach. Agliotti confirmed that the payment was his own “fee”, and not money that was supposed to be handed over to Selebi. Nevertheless, he admitted to giving Selebi a portion of the fee, even though the former police commissioner had stated two years before that he could do nothing for Rautenbach and his legal problems.
“On what conceivable basis would you then part with a portion of your fee and give it to the accused and say it came from Rautenbach?” Cilliers asked.
“He was my friend,” said Agliotti, bringing to a close the only bit of cross-examination all morning that might possibly have gone the State’s way.
Despite all the intrigue that had come before, the final few minutes of the day’s proceedings were easily the most interesting – and were clearly the reason that Aziz Pahad, a close friend of Thabo Mbeki and one-time minister in the former president’s cabinet, had secured himself a seat in the front row of the gallery. Cilliers put it to Agliotti that although he had stated last week that he once bought a pair of shoes for Mbeki while in Selebi’s presence, the accused denied that the gift had been procured or that the self-confessed drug trafficker was even with him.
Agliotti responded that he was indeed there; and that he remembers asking the shop assistant to place the shoes on his account. They were a size seven Zegna, he told the court.
Due to a bereavement in the family of State prosecutor Nel, court will resume on Tuesday.
By Kevin Bloom