- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: Former police chief sent to jail for graft
- Date: 4th August 2010
- Summary: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (AUGUST 3, 2010) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF COURT HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHERS PEOPLE WAITING OUTSIDE COURTHOUSE
- Embargoed: 19th August 2010 13:00
- Location: South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Reuters ID: LVA1H2P5YWJGA6LZCLGXK1RV555A
- Story Text: South Africa's former police chief was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on Tuesday (August 3) after he was convicted of graft and became one of the most senior officials brought to justice for corruption.
Jackie Selebi, a long-standing star in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and a former president of the international police body Interpol, had been found guilty last month of receiving bribes from a drug kingpin.
Judge Meyer Joffe said in handing down the sentence that corruption was a cancer undermining society and Selebi had embarrassed the court, the police force and South Africa.
"You were an embarrassment in the witness box. Firstly, you were an embarrassment to the office that you occupied. It is inconceivable that the person who occupied the office of National Commissioner of Police could be such as stranger to the truth," Joffe said.
Selebi remains free on bail on condition that he submits an application for leave to appeal against the sentence within 14 days.
Analysts said the conviction of Selebi was a positive development for the country, showing it was ready to tackle its growing corruption problem.
"Indeed this is an appropriate sentence that fits the crime as an indictment to all dedicated police officers to fight any temptation of engaging in any corrupt activities. It's also an indication that the NPA and the courts are committed to routing out corruption," said Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesperson for the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA).
"I feel very strongly for the victims of crime during the eight years that he was the Chief of Police. What you have to remember is that 150,000 South Africans were murdered, half a million were raped and two million were robbed and he was driving around in a car picking up bags of money from gangsters who were involved in those very same crimes," said former head of airport security Paul O'Sullivan as people left the court.
Prosecutors were seeking more than the possible minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. Selebi's lawyers were seeking a suspended sentence and a fine.
Selebi was a close ally of former President Thabo Mbeki who left office about two years ago. They did not expect his conviction to harm current President Jacob Zuma, who had faced corruption charges but was never convicted.
Selebi's conviction served notice to members of the Zuma government that they too could be held accountable for graft once the current president leaves office and they lose any political protection he might have offered, analysts said.
The ANC has said the guilty verdict showed no-one was above the law in South Africa.
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