, JOHANNESBURG, Jul 2 – South Africa\’s former police chief and ex-president of Interpol Jackie Selebi was convicted Friday of corruption for accepting bribes from organised crime.
Selebi had denied the charges against him, which he said were part of a broader political conspiracy that reached to the top levels of government.
The trial laid out his startling links with the criminal underworld, in particular with convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti who was accused of giving him cash and luxury gifts.
"Having due regard to the poor quality of the accused\’s evidence, the accused\’s denial of receipt of the payment is not reasonably possibly true," Judge Meyer Joffe said in a verdict.
"The accused is found guilty of corruption," he said.
Selebi was accused of taking bribes from Agliotti totalling more than 1.2 million rand (166,000 dollars, 122,000 euros) between 2000 and 2005.
The charges centred on their friendship, in a tangled web of allegations that were at turns recanted and reclaimed on the stand.
What finally emerged was a picture of Agliotti, who was also accused in the murder of a local mining magnate, indulging Selebi\’s fondness for designer clothing, which the police chief rewarded by feeding Agliotti inside information.
"He enjoyed shopping, and so did I," Agliotti said during the trial which began in October.
"When I travelled to London, I bought him shoes at Harrods. I also bought him a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes in Hong Kong."
While in office, Selebi acknowledged his friendship with Agliotti saying "Glenn Agliotti is my friend, finish and klaar (end of story)."
The judge was scathing in his ruling against the former head of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
"There is a stigma in society about labelling a witness a liar… But that is what the accused did," Joffe said. "It is a finding that as head of the SAPS… he had a low moral fibre and cannot be relied upon."
Sentencing was set for July 14, and in the meantime Selebi would remain free on bail.
Known for his angry outbursts and snazzy suits, the 60-year-old rose through the ranks of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), playing a key role in the fight against apartheid.
After the fall of the white-minority government in 1994, he occupied top positions in the ANC-led government.
In 2000 former president Thabo Mbeki named him national police commissioner, a job that led to him becoming Interpol\’s president from 2004 to 2008 — although he had no formal police training.
According to the prosecution, his shady dealings with criminals started during his time with Interpol, where he shared classified police intelligence with criminals in return for favours.
It was Agliotti\’s drugs conviction that lifted the lid on Selebi\’s activities, sparking a lengthy investigation into his life.
The probe was marred by political interference which threatened to divide the ruling party.
His first arrest warrant was issued in September 2007 but he was not charged, reportedly due to protection by then-president Thabo Mbeki.
On January 11, 2008, he was charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice due to his friendship with Agliotti.
Mbeki put him on leave the following day, and he resigned as president of Interpol.