News / Africa

Former S. African Top Cop Receives Prison Sentence for Corruption

South Africa's former police chief and ex-president of Interpol Jackie Selebi looks on during a hearing at the High Court of Johannesburg, on 3 Aug 2010
South Africa's former police chief and ex-president of Interpol Jackie Selebi looks on during a hearing at the High Court of Johannesburg, on 3 Aug 2010

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Scott Bobb

The former head of South Africa's national police force and former president of Interpol has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption.

Judge Mayer Joffe imposed the 15-year sentence on former national police chief Jackie Selebi, calling him an embarrassment to his country and the officers who served under him.

"I am satisfied that a sentence of 15 years imprisonment is an appropriate sentence in the present matter," said Joffe.  "A sentence of 15 years imprisonment is not disproportionate to the crime and the needs of society so that an injustice would be done by imposing that sentence."

The judge said he had considered defense arguments for a lesser sentence because Selebi is 60 years old and it was his first offense.  But he said the seriousness of corruption and its effect on society could not be ignored.

Under South African law, 15 years is the minimum sentence.

The court subsequently freed Selebi on bail so that he could appeal.

The former top cop and president of the International Criminal Police Organization, INTERPOL, was found guilty last month of taking bribes totaling more than $160,000 during a five-year period beginning in 2000.

These included payments and gifts from convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti who turned state's evidence against his former friend.  During the trial, the judge called Selebi and Agliotti liars and unreliable witnesses.

A professor of law at the University of South Africa, Shadrack Gutto, said on national radio that it was a landmark case.

"It is really setting a good example that it does not matter what office you hold in the country," said Gutto.  "Everyone is equal before the law."

Selebi is one of the highest ranking officials in South Africa to be convicted of misuse of office.

He is a former anti-apartheid activist who is well connected in the ruling African National Congress, and his lengthy case frequently disturbed the political hierarchy.

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