The 57-year-old Selebi, wearing a grey suit, white shirt and orange tie, solemnly stood in the dock in the High Court in Johannesburg as charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice were read out.
“I plead not guilty,” said Selebi, to all counts.
Selebi was less solemn after the hearing outside court, when he promised that he was “ready to drop bombshells” as the case proceeded.
His lawyer, Jaap Cilliers, did drop a few bombshells when he read out Selebi’s defence in court, stating: “The prosecution against him… is with ulterior motive.
“The NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] / DSO [Directorate of Special Operations] approached people with criminal activities offering indemnities… [on charges of] murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, racketeering, fraud, theft, defeating the ends of justice… in exchange for false statements against the accused,” said Cilliers.
He said Selebi wanted the now-defunct Scorpions to be dissolved and incorporated into the SA Police Service, partly because the DSO had acted beyond its mandate in foreign matters.
He then fingered ex-chief prosecutors Bulelani Ngcuka and Vusi Pikoli, both former South African President’s close allies – the latter was this year axed from his position – for involvement in unlawful activities.
Cilliers started with Ngcuka, saying he had approached ex-Hyundai boss and mining businessman Billy Rautenbach’s lawyers, offering that charges against him be dropped.
A Zimbabwean citizen, Billy Rautenbach is Robert Mugabe’s deal fixer and business partner of Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Billy Rautenbach is also linked to sanction bursting, buying aircraft parts for Zimbabwean Airforce jet fighter planes, Hawks from the British Aerospace.
On its first day, the case has so far opened up a faint hint on Thabo Mbeki’s interests in Zimbabwean and DRC mineral interests by the mentioning of his former close allies when he was the country’s President.
Bulelani Ngcuka and Vusi Pikoli could not have known Rautenbach without high level Zimbabwean involvement and the only man he works with in Zimbabwe is the Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Billy Rautenbach is linked to CAMEC, a company close to take over developing Zimbabwe’s Bokai platinum mineral rights.
Rautenbach is on the witness list in the Selebi case and made a deal with the State – on behalf of his company, SA Botswana Hauliers – on September 18 to pay a R40-million fine on 326 tax evasion charges, after being on the run from South African authorities for a decade.
“Ngcuka was involved in the illegal gathering of intelligence in the Rautenbach investigation without permission to do so,” Cilliers said.
He also accused Ngcuka of being “more interested in mining rights in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] and Zimbabwe than the offences Rautenbach committed”.
Rautenbach is a major shareholder in the Central African Mining and Exploration Company (Camec).
Cilliers then turned to Pikoli, claiming his wife received “gratification” from the slain mining magnate Brett Kebble in the form of “shares in a public company and other entities”.
“The accused summonsed Pikoli at that stage… to his office to discuss the above issues… he warned Pikoli,” said Cilliers.
He said Pikoli was emotional about the “gratification to his wife from Kebble”.
“He did not deny that his wife received gratification.”
Selebi told the crime directorate to investigate the matter.
Cilliers said even after Ngcuka left the NPA, he “still exerted substantial influence in the DSO”.
“Ngcuka put huge pressure… to proceed with the campaign against the accused”.
Cilliers also claimed “information was leaked to the press by the NPA in an attempt to destroy the accused’s credibility”.
The NPA “provided false and misleading evidence under oath to this court”, Cilliers said.
After Cilliers read out the summary of Selebi’s defence, the State requested a postponement to tomorrow morning at 9.15am.
Judge Meyer Joffe warned both parties he would not tolerate any games in court.
“It is my intention this trial must run as smoothly as possible.”
Selebi’s charges relate to payments he allegedly received from Rautenbach, Kebble and his associate Glenn Agliotti, who is accused of murdering Kebble.
The State, in papers before the court, alleged “Agliotti and/or Kebble and or Rautenbach and/or the relevant corporate entities have benefited the accused in the period January 1, 2000 up to and including December 31, 2005… in an amount of at least but not restricted to R1,2-million.
“This was by way of payments by Agliotti on his own account and on behalf of Rautenbach, the Kebbles and others.”
The State said the relationship between Selebi and Agliotti, who met in 1990, “entails numerous payments in South African and foreign currency, as well as clothing and other gifts”.
“In return, the accused rewarded Agliotti by inter alia informing him of the existence of an investigation into his criminal activity.”
The investigation started in 2006 and Selebi first presented himself to court last year.
A list of state witnesses includes Agliotti, Rautenbach, acting prosecuting boss Mokotedi Mpshe and Clinton Nassif, who was responsible for Kebble’s security.
Agliotti is expected to be the first witness in the trial that had been set down for five weeks.