DEATH OF A DRUG DEALER
Glenn Agliotti — from second-hand sales to narcotrafficking and bribing SA’s top cop with designer threads
Glenn Norbert Agliotti died in Johannesburg about a week ago. He was part of the foundation of State Capture in South Africa. He leaves behind a public legacy littered with criminality and links to top-tier crooks – a legacy shared with former national police chief Jackie Selebi.
In the 1990s, two men met at the ANC’s head office, Shell House in Johannesburg.
This meeting had such deep repercussions for South Africa that they are still being felt today.
The meeting was between Glenn Agliotti, a businessman who went on to become a convicted drug dealer, and Jackie Selebi, who became South Africa’s police chief and a convicted criminal.
Imported clothing to help ANC
“At that time [of the 1990s meeting, Selebi] was in charge of social welfare and development within the African National Congress. Agliotti was considering the importation into and the sale in South Africa of second-hand clothing,” court papers against Selebi later said.
“Agliotti was considering giving a percentage of the profits to cover the relocation costs of [presumably previously exiled] members of the African National Congress returning to South Africa.”
The duo had 12 meetings, but nothing happened and “eventually Agliotti and [Selebi] went their own ways.”
But they later partnered up again, sparking a long and scandalous political mess that adds to the many thick layers of corruption now twisted around South Africa.
Died in hospital
Selebi died in 2015, while reports surfaced at the weekend that Agliotti died in a Johannesburg hospital on Friday 30 June 2023.
Gauteng police spokesperson Mavela Masondo confirmed to various news outlets that an inquest had been opened into Agliotti’s death.
Masondo told Daily Maverick on Thursday 6 July that a postmortem would be carried out to determine Agliotti’s cause of death.
Agliotti and Selebi’s histories entwined several times and placed them in the middle of underworld circles.
Selebi was appointed South Africa’s police chief in 2000 and from 2004 he also headed global policing organisation Interpol.
Both he and Agliotti became, in a sense, criminally bonded.
Bouncers and Brett Kebble
In September 2005, mining boss and ANC funder Brett Kebble was killed in Johannesburg.
The case took a bizarre twist when allegations were made he was shot as part of an assisted suicide that Kebble himself orchestrated.
A group of men, Agliotti included, were accused of involvement in the strange assassination.
During the subsequent trial, Kebble’s housekeeper had testified that Kebble had paid Selebi to ensure issues that were troubling him were dealt with.
‘Devil incarnates’ and ‘darkness’
Eventually, boxer Mikey Schultz, and bouncers Faizel “Kappie” Smith and Nigel McGurk, were granted indemnity from prosecution in exchange for testifying for the state.
Agliotti was granted a discharge and was therefore cleared in the Kebble case.
That judgment summed up circumstances surrounding Kebble’s murder as such: “This case is about hidden and/or sinister agendas perpetrated by shoddy characters as well as ostensibly crooked and/or greedy business persons.
“It is about corrupt civil servants as well as prominent politicians or politically connected people wining and dining with devils incarnates under cover of darkness.”
Collusion and cocaine trafficking
Meanwhile, in early 2000 Selebi, who that year became South Africa’s national police commissioner, and Agliotti, had paired up again.
Prior to Agliotti’s arrest for the Kebble saga, Selebi had at some time in 2006 shown him an official UK government document.
In doing so, Selebi, who should have been investigating Agliotti, did the very opposite.
The UK government document said: “Information from the UK indicates the AGLIOTTI and others are involved with the trafficking of significant quantities of cocaine to the United Kingdom. The cocaine is due to be shipped by sea to the UK concealed within furniture.”
Cocaine was being transported by air from Venezuela to Angola and from there, via road, to South Africa.
‘Baldy John’ and global kingpins
“When the cocaine is removed from the lock-up (near Johannesburg) for onward transportation, a customs seal is placed on the container. The containers are shipped from Cape Town,” the UK government document said.
Agliotti was believed to have been working with South Africans as well as others including a man in the UK known as “Baldy John.”
In 2006 Agliotti pleaded guilty to a drug smuggling charge and was handed a suspended sentence, while the following year he pleaded guilty to drug dealing and again managed to avoid jail time by agreeing to provide information to the state.
International cocaine trafficking by way of South Africa is still a massive problem — Daily Maverick has reported extensively on it.
This journalist’s book, Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa, explained that Agliotti had alleged ties to Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido of Cuba, which Yester-Garrido had denied but which other sources corroborate.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Escobar man’s ‘Narcos’-styled life: How a Cuban drug lord ran a global cartel from the safe haven of South Africa
Yester-Garrido was based in Johannesburg before being arrested in Rome in 2017 and sent to the US where he was sentenced to five years in jail in 2020 over a marijuana-related debt collection.
Clash of the Cartels also said Agliotti seemed to be linked to Czech criminal Radovan Krejcir who has deep underworld connections in South Africa and who claimed to be associated with former president Jacob Zuma’s family.
Local and international disgrace
Meanwhile, in 2007 a warrant of arrest was issued for Selebi who had tipped Agliotti off about the UK narcotrafficking investigation.
Selebi became the centre of not just a national scandal, but a global one because he was South Africa’s police chief, as well as Interpol’s president.
In 2006 Interpol had issued a statement calling him “a man of the highest professionalism and integrity.”
Two years later, when Selebi resigned as its president in 2008, Interpol issued a statement saying: “Corruption is one of the most serious offences that any police official can be accused of.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: From South Africa to Sinaloa: Jackie Selebi and the ‘parallel’ US drug trial of Mexico’s ex-cop boss
During subsequent court proceedings against Selebi, his ties to Agliotti were exposed and dissected.
Agliotti himself elaborated on their dealings.
Designer kicks for a corrupt cop
Court papers stated: “Agliotti testified that he bought two pairs of shoes for [Selebi] at Harrods in London.
“He also bought him a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes in Hong Kong. Agliotti recalled purchasing for [Selebi] Hugo Boss knitwear jerseys which the accused enjoyed wearing and an Aigner jacket in a houndstooth fabric.”
The judgment against Selebi, handed down in 2010, said: “This relationship became a generally corrupt relationship. The accused received sums of money and clothing for himself and on one occasion for the accused’s sons from Agliotti…
“The accused so acted by sharing with Agliotti secret information about an investigation against Agliotti conducted by United Kingdom law enforcement authorities; protecting Agliotti from criminal investigation”.
‘Best hotels’ and ‘better things in life’
Agliotti’s persona was also focused on briefly in the judgment against Selebi.
“From observation whilst giving evidence,” it said, “it appears the Agliotti is a large man of imposing physical appearance.”
The judgment continued: “He is relatively well-spoken. He always appeared extremely well-dressed in court. He did not appear to lack confidence, it emerged from his evidence that when travelling he stayed at the best hotels, supported up-market clothing stores, travelled overseas whilst flying first or business class and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle.
“He deliberately gave the impression that he liked the better things in life.”
Despite some claims that he was set up, in 2010 Selebi was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 15 years in jail.
When Selebi subsequently died on 23 January 2015, Agliotti had tweeted: “My condolences to Anne Selebi and the family on the passing of Jackie.”
My condolences to Anne Selebi and the family on the passing of Jackie.
— Glenn Agliotti (@GlennAgliotti) January 23, 2015
Cocreated criminal legacies
According to the court papers against Selebi, he and Agliotti met in the 1990s when Agliotti was apparently considering giving money, made from selling imported clothes, to ANC members returning to South Africa.
Based on Agliotti’s own words, within less than two decades that purportedly good gesture turned into gratifications for greed-driven Selebi, the highest-ranking police officer in the country.
Designer clothing from a drug dealer trumped going after crooks, protecting residents, and bolstering the South African Police Service, which is still rocked by infighting and corruption accusations.
Agliotti, meanwhile, fertilised South Africa’s narcotrafficking connections that are now thriving and global.
In death, both Selebi and Agliotti have left behind public legacies based on their actions that contributed to crimes including State Capture.
The corrupt cop, and now the drug dealer, go down in history as South African sellouts. DM