Ex-S Africa police chief convicted
Jackie Selebi found guilty of accepting bribes after trial fraught with political tension.
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2010 13:56 GMT
Selebi was taken on shopping sprees by an alleged  drug dealer who faces trial later this year [EPA]

A court in South Africa has convicted the country's former police chief of accepting bribes.

Jackie Selebi, also a former president of Interpol, was found guilty on Friday of accepting bribes worth $156,000.

The trial, which began last October, focused on Selebi's relationship with Glenn Agliotti, an alleged drug dealer who took him on shopping sprees.

Agliotti himself faces trial later this year for allegedly murdering Brett Kebble, a mining magnate, in 2005.

The verdict was the cumulation of a four-and-a-half-year investigation.

"The fact that a man who was the former chief of police and the former head of Interpol was found guilty is sending major shock waves throughout the country," Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg, said.

"Throughout the trial there was a debate going on about whether political corruption is hindering South Africa's fight against crime."

'Contempt for truth'

In delivering the verdict, Judge Meyer Joffe said that Selebi had shown "complete contempt for the truth" during the trial.

Selebi could face 15 years in prison when sentenced on July 14.

Selebi had pleaded innocent to all charges. He said that evidence for the charges had been fabricated because he criticised the Scorpions, a now disbanded elite crime fighting unit.

"The fact that he has been found guilty means that maybe something is being done in the country to stamp out corruption. Some people are hoping that this is a sign to come," our correspondent said.

The trial was fraught with political tension.

Vusi Pikoli, the former chief prosecutor, lost his job for charging Selebi.

He was accused of failing to inform his political bosses before taking the sensitive step.

'Willing to pursue'

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Na'eem Jeenah, a political analyst and executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre, an independent think-tank in Johannesburg, said he was not sure the Selebi ruling would necessarily stem corruption, which he described as "quite bad in South Africa".

"But it certainly is a message that the authorities are willing to pursue these matters. The media covered the case from beginning to end. In much of the media in South Africa, it ran on the front pages for a long time," Jeenah said.

"And people certainly were interested, if you look at the number of people that were reading these newspapers, the number of people that were calling into radio talk shows etc.

"The main reason being people are sick and tired of the idea of government representatives, government officials, being involved in corruption.

"And here was someone who was very high, very close to the top, also at the time [very close] to the former president of this country [Thabo Mbeki]."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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