"Mr Selebi, you were an embarrassment in the witness box," he said, addressing the former police chief.

Fall from grace

Jaap Cilliers, Selebi's lawyer, said his client had already suffered enough by falling from grace.

"The fall that the accused already had must have been one of the greatest falls in our legal history," Cilliers said.

The trial, which began last October, focused on Selebi's relationship with Glenn Agliotti, a convicted drug smuggler. 

Selebi was found guilty on July 2 for accepting bribes worth $166,000 between 2000 and 2005, including payments from Agliotti.

In return, Selebi granted Agliotti access to top-secret police files and attended meetings with Agliotti's underworld associates.

Agliotti himself is accused of playing a role in the 2005 murder of the mining tycoon, Brett Kebble.

Political implications

The verdict was the culmination of a four-and-a-half-year investigation that became a highly sensitive trial with political implications.

Selebi, an ally of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, had been charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice but was found not guilty of the latter charge.

Earlier Vusi Pikoli, the former chief prosecutor, lost his job for failing to inform his political bosses before taking the sensitive step of charging Selebi.

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. 

Kevin Malunga, a lawyer based in Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera that the judge had given Selebi a firm sentence that could serve as a deterrent.

"It will certainly be a deterrent to individuals where there is use of 'brown envelopes' as it was in the Selebi case," he said.

Malunga said the actual payments Selebi had received could not be traced in bank statements but that it was clear from his lifestyle that he received money outside the official channels.

"This is a start. The law operates via precedence and this will certainly help in the future."