Graft trial of former chief of police in South Africa begins


THE LONG-AWAITED trial of South Africa’s former police chief, Jackie Selebi, begins today – two years after he was first charged with corruption, fraud and defeating the ends of justice by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Mr Selebi, who was also head of Interpol until he stood down in 2007, is expected to plead not guilty to the charges against him.

The central plank in the state’s case against Mr Selebi revolves around his relationship with shady businessman and drug dealer turned state witness Glenn Agliotti, a former friend he had a “generally corrupt” relationship with.

NPA papers lodged at Johannesburg High Court claim Mr Selebi first met Mr Agliotti in 1990 when the former was head of the African National Congress’s social welfare and development department.

The charge sheet claims the corrupt relationship began soon afterwards, when Mr Selebi indicated he needed money to pay his son’s medical bills, and Mr Agliotti agreed to cover the costs.

The NPA will call upon at least 66 witnesses to give evidence in the trial, including former and current senior police, and business people connected to Mr Selebi.

It is understood Mr Selebi’s legal team will present a defence to show there has been a political conspiracy against him, and to implicate government officials and spies who were involved in drawing up charges against him.

An Irish-born security expert is also at the heart of the drama, as he spent 10 years unearthing Mr Selebi’s alleged criminal links after falling foul of the former police chief while head of security for the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA).

Paul O’Sullivan (53), from Tipperary, was fired from his ACSA post after he cancelled the contract of a private security company that had links with Mr Selebi. He believed the former police chief was behind his sacking.

Mr O’Sullivan, a former British intelligence operative, proceeded to infiltrate a criminal syndicate involving Mr Agliotti, and much of the evidence he gathered is believed to have been used by the NPA as the basis for charging Mr Selebi.

Mr O’Sullivan, who became a South African citizen in 1992, told The Irish Timesin 2006 that by pursuing Mr Selebi he believed he was following a proud tradition among Irish emigres.

“Serving your country – it’s what most Irish do, whether they make their home in Sydney or New York or Johannesburg.” He added: “Why should I pack my bags and leave the country? I could pack my bags, but what about those who can’t – what about those left behind facing an untenable crime situation?”

In his final letter to the police chief, he wrote: “Never mount an unlawful attack on a man with Irish blood and expect him to roll over – it just doesn’t happen.” The case against Mr Selebi could last between three and six months.

Last week, South Africa’s Sunday Timesreported that a South African producer was in final stages of talks with a Hollywood studio to make a film based on Mr O’Sullivan’s crusade to unearth Mr Selebi’s alleged criminal links.