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South African Police Chief Drawn In to Organized Crime Case


South Africa's national police commissioner has become embroiled in a major organized crime investigation following the arrest of a friend of his on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder. The development has prompted renewed calls for the commissioner to resign.

Businessman Glenn Agliotti was arrested this week on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder in the death of mining magnate Brett Kebble 14 months ago.

Agliotti and Kebble were friends and business associates and both were on friendly terms with National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Following Kebble's death, it was discovered that he had been involved in fraudulent business deals totaling nearly $1 billion and that he owed $25 million in unpaid taxes.

Agliotti's arrest follows months of speculation that he was involved in the death of Kebble, who is believed to have been killed because his business empire was about to collapse and his illegal dealings exposed.

The events this week have prompted widespread calls from opposition parties that Police commissioner Selebi resign, or at least take a leave of absence, until the case is concluded.

But Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg, said that it may be too soon to demand Selebi's resignation.

"In all fairness to the national commissioner no allegations of any criminal activity against him have so far been brought forward," he said.

"The only worrying fact in this whole saga, is that he has aligned himself with someone who is the focus of a criminal investigation. So to expect him to step down completely is perhaps a little premature at this stage I think," he added.

In spite of all the speculation, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the commissioner, and last week the cabinet said it had complete confidence in him. But there has been widespread concern about some of his associations and about the investigation.

In May of this year, the Mail and Guardian newspaper reported that a lengthy investigation had allegedly revealed ties and links between Commissioner Selebi and a number of individuals with connections to Kebble and Agliotti.

The newspaper also reported that some of the individuals were, or had been, the subject of other criminal investigations.

In addition, the newspaper reported that, according to mobile phone records in its possession, Agliotti had telephoned Selebi soon after Kebble's murder from the general vicinity of the murder.

Both men said their calls to each other that evening were related to Agliotti seeking Selebi's assistance in speeding up the start of the police investigation.

Of more concern to many South Africans, however, is the removal of the vehicle in which Kebble had been killed from police custody before completion of the forensic examination.

The vehicle was removed on the instructions of an individual with ties to both Agliotti and Selebi. It was subsequently returned to the police, but only after it had been thoroughly cleaned.