Clinton Nassif trapped

30 July 2010 - 00:46 By SALLY EVANS

Glenn Agliotti's high-priced lawyer is circling "King Rat", the state's star witness, Clinton Nassif, poised to destroy his evidence.

Nassif earned the nickname after he shopped Agliotti in return for indemnity for the murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble.

He also told investigators from the now defunct Scorpions who his three gunmen were.

Soon afterwards, the words "King Rat" - the title of a novel by James Clavell - were spray-painted on the wall of Nassif's home in the southern Johannesburg suburb of Bassonia.

Agliotti's advocate, Laurance Hodes, wasted no time slashing at Nassif's credibility when he began cross-examining him late yesterday afternoon.

He said Nassif did not "qualify" for the freedom he had received from the Scorpions in exchange for testifying against Agliotti and his erstwhile friend, former police chief Jackie Selebi.

The towering Nassif was a security consultant to Kebble and his business partner John Stratton.

He was arrested in 2006, a year after Kebble's death, for insurance fraud after trying to have his Mercedes written off by dropping it to the ground with a forklift after a minor accident.

The Scorpions used the insurance fraud case to turn the screws on Nassif, who sang like a canary in November 2006 about crimes relating to Kebble, Selebi and Agliotti of which he had knowledge.

Hodes charged: "When you had problems with your fraud case . you thought, 'Let me rather give them other people. Let me sink other people so I can walk free.'"

Nassif retorted: "That's absolute rubbish."

Hodes shot back: "You are lying. You were told that you had to identify the relationship between Agliotti and the former police commissioner Jackie Selebi. You had to spill the beans on Agliotti in the statement, and on Mr Selebi."

Nassif responded that his job was to provide security services to Stratton and Kebble, not to Agliotti.

Responded Hodes: "That's music to my ears."

Nassif told the court that, on behalf of Kebble and Stratton, he had his employees tap phones, "frame" people, illegally obtain bank statements and cellphone records, and place bugging devices in the homes and cars of their enemies.

In return, he had "knocked" the Kebbles - keeping money they gave him to pay bribes to magistrates and prosecutors.

"I would say that I would bribe people but then I didn't and I would keep the money," Nassif said in his statement.

"Brett and Stratton authorised payments for me to pay these people," said Nassif.

Said Hodes: "You see? It is just you."

Barely audible, Nassif replied: "I didn't include Glenn [Agliotti's name] in every sentence."

Earlier yesterday, Nassif testified that a few months after he began working for Kebble and Stratton, he and Agliotti - whom he had met while playing golf in 2003 - were "summoned" to Kebble's home.

It was there that they were told of Kebble's plan to die.

"I don't know what these guys got themselves into, really. Brett Kebble was very convincing," he said.

"I then went to [hitman] Mikey Schultz and said to him, 'This guy is dead straight, he wants to do it, he is going to do it, can we find someone to do it?'"

Nassif told the court he visited Kebble's father, Roger, to tell him his son wanted to die.

The older Kebble had "freaked out".

"He told me that since Brett was a teen and things got hard he always threatened," Nassif said.

This is the first time the Kebble family has been said to have had any knowledge of the so-called assisted suicide.

The family has always vehemently denied that Kebble wanted to take his own life, saying he would "never do that".

Nassif continued: "Brett was a desperate man, he put his hand on John's shoulder, and said: 'The old man will take care of you guys, this has to be done, this has to be done.'

"We decided to help him, we knew there would probably be no payment."

Knifing the state's case further, Nassif admitted on the stand that he "needed to protect" Agliotti from being "hurt" by his hitmen - Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel Smith - whom Nassif had promised R500000 each for the "job".

He told Agliotti to tell them, just in case, that he had paid Nassif the cash so they would come after him instead.

The case continues. -