SA trial will 'blow lid' on corruption in judiciary

By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent
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South Africa's former chief of police claimed that he was the victim of a "grand conspiracy" as a trial got under way yesterday that could reveal the extent of corruption in the country's judicial and criminal systems.

Jackie Selebi, who is also a former head of Interpol, is accused of taking bribes from organised crime bosses, one of whom has been implicated in the murder of one of South Africa's richest men.

Mr Selebi pleaded not guilty at the High Court in Johannesburg yesterday to charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice. He then threatened to "drop bombshells" as he left the courthouse.

The case is expected to stir up the controversial details of the bitter power struggle between South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, and his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Zuma faced six years of corruption hearings before charges were dropped on a technicality earlier this year, prior to his election.

Mr Mbeki, who stood down last year after being accused of interfering with judicial proceedings, has been accused of protecting Mr Selebi from an investigation by the Scorpions, South Africa's highly respected anti-corruption unit. In a defence which echoes that of Mr Zuma during his prosecution for graft, Mr Selebi has quickly sought to portray the case against him as politically inspired.

Neither Mr Selebi nor Mr Zuma has spent time addressing the detail of the charges against them.

At the heart of Mr Selebi's trial is the accusation that in return for payments of at least $150,000 (£94,000) over five years, he protected the drug trafficking operations of Glenn Agliotti – a drug smuggler who was also accused of playing a role in the 2005 murder of the mining tycoon Brett Kebble.

The trial continues.