(Corrects to say Selebi was Interpol’s president in headline. Story ran on Aug. 3.)
Jackie Selebi, South Africa’s former police chief and a one-time president of Interpol, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the country’s High Court following his conviction on corruption charges.
“You were aware of the high honor that was bestowed on you,” Judge Meyer Joffe told Selebi in delivering the sentence in Johannesburg today. “You must have been an embarrassment to all right-thinking citizens of this country. I am satisfied that a sentence of 15 years is an appropriate sentence.”
On July 2, Joffe ruled that 60-year-old Selebi had taken hundreds of thousands of rand in payments between 2000 and 2005 from three businessmen, including murder suspect Glen Agliotti, that “made no legitimate business sense” and were intended as bribes. He found Selebi not guilty of a separate charge of defeating the ends of justice.
Selebi was released on 20,000 rand ($2,746) bail pending an appeal against the verdict and sentence that must be filed within 14 days, failing which he must report within 48 hours to begin serving his term.
An appeal is likely to take between eight months and a year, Willem de Klerk, an adjunct professor at the University of the Witwatersrand Law School, said in an interview.
“It’s an appropriate sentence that fits the crime and a warning for any police officers not to engage in corruption,” Mthunzi Mhaga, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, said in an interview. “The prosecution did a sterling job.”
Selebi and his lawyers declined to comment.
Prosecutors said Selebi had been informed in 2002 that Agliotti was involved in drug smuggling yet took no action against him, and that he shared secret information with Agliotti about police investigations.
Selebi said that Agliotti was his friend and there was nothing illicit about their relationship. He repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Selebi’s evidence was “mendacious and in some cases manufactured,” Joffe said. “It is inconceivable that the person who occupied the office of the national commissioner of police could have been such a stranger to the truth. At no stage during the trial did the accused display any remorse.”
Agliotti is currently on trial for arranging the murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble in September 2005. He said in an affidavit that the killing was a planned and assisted suicide.
Though Selebi showed Agliotti a confidential document from U.K. intelligence authorities that were tracking his movements, Joffe found this did not interfere with any legal proceedings against him.
Joffe denied Agliotti immunity from potential charges related to Selebi’s case, saying his testimony against the former police chief was neither frank nor honest.
Selebi was appointed president of Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, in October 2004 and resigned in January 2008 after he was charged with graft. Interpol’s General Assembly, comprising delegates from the 188 member countries, elects the Lyon-based organization’s president every four years.
“Our justice system is working,” Goodman Kraqa, a pastor who stood outside the court waiting for Selebi to emerge. “There’s no one that’s above the law.”
As a member of the African National Congress, Selebi was arrested for campaigning against white minority rule in the 1970s. After all-race elections in 1994, he became the director- general at the Department of International Relations and then South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, before joining the police.
No Different Rules
“We can’t have a situation of different rules for the ANC and members of society,” said Gwede Mantashe, the secretary- general of the ANC, whose youth wing Selebi used to lead. “The fact that criminal justice system is working is a plus in our country,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
The state will seek to recover the legal fees it paid for Selebi’s defense, Joffe said.
“If this occurs the accused will be destroyed financially,” he said.