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Former South Africa Police Chief Convicted of Corruption

The former head of South Africa's national police force and former president of Interpol has been convicted of corruption.

Judge Meyer Joffe Friday delivered the guilty verdict against former National Police Chief Jackie Selebi before a packed courtroom in Johannesburg.

"The accused is found guilty of corruption in contravening Section 4 [one] of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004," he said.

The judge found Selebi not guilty of a separate charge of defeating the ends of justice.

The former top cop and president of the international police organization Interpol was accused of taking bribes totaling more than $160,000 during a five-year period beginning in 2000.

These included payments and gifts from convicted South African drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti, who turned state's evidence against his former friend.

The judge called both Selebi and Agliotti liars and unreliable witnesses.

He ordered Selebi to appear for sentencing in two weeks (July 14). He faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Under South African law, Selebi may then ask for permission from the judge to appeal, which legal experts say he is likely to do.

The head of the Institute for Accountability, human rights lawyer Paul Hoffman, said on E-News television that the conviction was a positive step in a country where corruption by public officials is a growing problem.

"It is one [case] that indicates that the rule of law is intact and that corruption does not pay and cannot be allowed to pay," he said.

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. His lengthy case frequently irritated the political hierarchy.

Selebi said the charges were brought against him by political enemies after he opposed an elite corruption-busting police unit called the Scorpions.

The head of the National Prosecuting Authority that brought the charges against Selebi was dismissed for not advising his superiors of his intent to prosecute Selebi.

The National Prosecuting Authority also tried to prosecute ANC President Jacob Zuma on corruption charges but was prevented from doing so weeks before he was elected president of the country.

The Scorpions were disbanded last year after President Zuma came to power.