S.Africa's ex police chief sent to jail for graft

by Jon Herskovitz | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 3 August 2010 11:35 GMT

* Judge said Selebi was embarrassment to state

* Selebi was former Interpol chief

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 3 (Reuters) - A South African court on Tuesday sentenced the country's former police chief to 15 years imprisonment after he was convicted of graft and became one of the most senior officials brought to justice for corruption.

Jackie Selebi, formerly a leading anti-apartheid activist and well-connected in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, had been found guilty last month of receiving bribes from a drug kingpin.

Judge Meyer Joffe said in handing down the sentence that Selebi had embarrassed the state, the police force and the court.

"At no stage during the trial did the accused display any indication of remorse. The accused lied and fabricated evidence in an endeavour to escape the consequences of his conduct," Joffe said.

Selebi remains free on bail on condition that he submits an application for leave to appeal against the sentence within 14 days.

Analysts said the conviction of Selebi -- a former president of the international police body Interpol -- was a positive development for the country, showing it was ready to tackle its growing corruption problem.

Prosecutors were seeking more than the possible minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. Selebi's lawyers were seeking a suspended sentence and a fine.

Last month, Judge Joffe said in his decision that Selebi had received at least 120,000 rand ($16,500) from Glenn Agliotti, a convicted drug trafficker who was one of the main prosecution witnesses.

Joffe had found Selebi not guilty of defeating the ends of justice but said he did not find the former national commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS) a credible witness.

Prosecutors had contended that Selebi had links to organised crime figures and received about 1.2 million rand to ignore their drug trafficking.

Selebi was a close ally of former President Thabo Mbeki and analysts did not expect his conviction to harm current President Jacob Zuma. 

The ANC has said the guilty verdict showed no-one was above the law in South Africa.

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