Murdered South African mining magnate Brett Kebble considered poisoning himself before opting to be gunned down to avoid jail, a Johannesburg court heard.
When three men were commissioned to shoot him five years ago, 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. At the time he also lead JCI Ltd. and Western Areas Ltd.
In an 11-year career in South Africa’s gold mining industry, Kebble, who died at the age of 41, helped set up two of the country’s four biggest gold companies, Harmony Gold Mining Co. and DRDGold Ltd. Investec Ltd., a bank, and fund manager Allan Gray Ltd., a shareholder in Kebble’s companies, pressed for his departure after the assets went missing.
“Brett pleaded with me,” Clinton Nassif, who today told the South Gauteng High court that he arranged Kebble’s killing. “He was at his wits end with all the trouble.”
John Stratton, a former JCI director, helped Kebble look for a lethal pill “that wouldn’t show up in an autopsy,” said Nassif, who worked as a security manager for convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti. Agliotti has pleaded not guilty to ordering Nassif to have Kebble’s murder carried out at the mining magnate’s request, describing it as an “assisted suicide”. Robert Kanarek, a lawyer for Agliotti, declined to comment today. Agliotti faces charges of murder and conspiracy to murder.
Nassif, who was arrested before Agliotti, has turned state witness along with the men he tasked with shooting Kebble in his car on the night of Sept. 27, 2005, in a bid to avoid prosecution. Lawrence Hodes, a lawyer for Agliotti, today called Nassif a “liar” in court and said he would not qualify for immunity.
Former nightclub doorman Nigel McGurk, one of the men hired for the killing, on July 27 testified that Agliotti was responsible for getting payment for the assassination.
Stratton, who promised to pay between 1 million rand ($137,000) or 2 million rand for the Kebble killing, never paid Nassif or Agliotti, while “spinning stories” that the money would arrive from Mauritius later on, Nassif said.
Agliotti’s trial has been delayed, partly because prosecutors were attempting to secure Stratton’s extradition from Australia, where he now lives.
Yesterday, Stephen Mildenhall, the former chief investment officer of Cape Town-based Allan Gray testified that he was shot in both shoulder by two men in his driveway on Aug. 31, 2005, the day after Kebble quit the companies.
Nassif said he resisted a request by Kebble and Stratton to kill Mildenhall. At a meeting at Stratton’s Cape Town home, Stratton gave him Mildenhall’s address, “pushed a sushi knife at me and told me to get this done,” Nassif said. After agreeing to hospitalize Mildenhall for several months, Nassif and Agliotti commissioned the attack, Nassif said.
Investec Ltd. agreed to lend JCI 460 million rand to help complete a mine development by Western Areas on the world’s biggest gold deposit on condition Kebble left.
Allan Gray wanted his departure to support a concurrent rights offer by Western Areas, in which it held an about 25-percent stake, Mildenhall said. JCI held 39 percent of Western Areas.
Agliotti is also charged with conspiring to murder Mildenhall, Mark Bristow, the chief executive officer of Randgold Resources Ltd., Jean Nortier, the chief executive officer of Uranium One Ltd., and Mark Wellesley-Wood, the former chief executive officer of DRDGold.
The three others were on “a list of people I had to look into and get profiles done,” Nassif said. “They wanted to gather information on what they were doing, where they were going, get bank statements - keep tabs on them.”
Shares of Randgold & Exploration were suspended in 2005 and recommenced trade on June 4, this year. The company now has a market value of 404 million rand. JCI also has plans to have trade its shares restarted.
The case is: State versus Agliotti, Norbert Glenn, JPV 2008/264, SS154/2009.