The state has not made a prima facie case, Judge Frans Kgomo said in the South Gauteng High Court today. Agliotti, 54, kissed his lawyer, Laurance Hodes, on both cheeks after Kgomo told him he was free to go.
“I am very angry for what they put me through ” Agliotti, who was arrested in 2006, told reporters at the court as friends clustered around the convicted drug dealer. “It affected my whole life, my family is very traumatized.”
The four-month trial showed that Kebble, who died at the age of 41, had become a suicidal recluse as he considered poisoning himself and bringing down a plane that he was in before ordering his own shooting to avoid a possible jail sentence. Kebble bled to death in his silver Mercedes S600 on the night of Sept. 27, 2005 after being shot seven times on a road crossing the main highway into Johannesburg’s city center.
Kebble, who had been forced to resign as chief executive officer of three mining companies, faced a probe after assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars went missing from Randgold & Exploration Ltd., a Johannesburg-based company that he led. Marais Steyn, Randgold’s CEO, declined to comment when called today.
In an 11-year career in South Africa’s gold mining industry, Kebble, who was also CEO of Johannesburg’s JCI Ltd. and Western Areas Ltd., helped set up two of the country’s four biggest gold companies, Harmony Gold Mining Co. and DRDGold Ltd.
Testimony from Clinton Nassif, who said he helped arrange the killing, was “annihilated”, Hodes said on Nov. 18. Agliotti didn’t testify.
Mobile phone records and an undertaking by Agliotti to pay the hit men for the murder supported the case, prosecutor Dan Dakana told the court last week.
“I don’t see anything embarrassing about this,” Mthunzi Mhaga, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told reporters at the court, adding that the prosecutors will decide whether to appeal the judgment. The state will continue to seek the extradition of John Stratton, a business partner of Kebble’s, from Australia to help with investigations, he said.
Pleaded to Be Killed
Mikey Schultz, a boxer, Nigel McGurk, a nightclub bouncer, and Faizel Smith, a body shop owner, told the court how they met Kebble on a northern Johannesburg street and shot him. The three, and Nassif, agreed to testify against Agliotti in exchange for immunity from prosecution for the crime. They told the court that Agliotti had ordered the killing, working through Nassif, who served as an intermediary.
Kgomo today said Nassif had been discredited and stripped him of immunity from prosecution. He said that the three killers are still entitled to indemnity. Nassif on July 29 told the court that Kebble “pleaded” with him to arrange the killing.
“Nassif was proven to be an untruthful witness who changed his version whenever an inconsistency in his evidence was pointed out,” Kgomo said. “Nassif’s evidence is of such poor quality that it cannot be safely relied on.”
Agliotti pleaded not guilty to ordering the murder even as he said the death was an “assisted suicide” in an affidavit used during his bail hearing. The statement was not admissible as evidence during the trial.
South Africa’s former National Police Commissioner and one- time Interpol President Jackie Selebi was sentenced to a 15-year jail sentence for corruption on Aug. 3 after he was found guilty of taking bribes from Agliotti, who arranged for the policeman to meet Kebble. While Agliotti testified against Selebi he was stripped of immunity from prosecution because of the quality of his evidence.
“This case is about hidden and sinister agendas perpetrated by shady characters and greedy business persons,” Kgomo said. “It is about corrupt civil servants as well as politicians and politically connected individuals wining and dining with devils incarnate under the shade of darkness.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at email@example.com.