Agliotti a free man

26 November 2010 - 01:38 By SALLY EVANS

Clinton Nassif, who tried "everything in the book" to save his skin and avoid being jailed for the murder of failed mining magnate Brett Kebble, now faces a precarious future - his indemnity from prosecution has been revoked by the Johannesburg High Court.







In a dramatic judgment yesterday, Judge Frans Kgomo acquitted convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti of orchestrating the murder of Kebble in 2005, but dealt Nassif - Kebble's former security chief and the state's key witness - a major blow.

Kebble, who was in deep financial trouble and was being investigated for fraud, was gunned down in his car in Melrose, northern Johannesburg, in what the prosecution described as an "assisted suicide".

"Nassif eventually conceded that, when Brett Kebble's shooting plans were finalised, Agliotti was not there. He tried everything in the book to not testify in this court," Kgomo said in a judgment that was harshly critical of the state's handling of the case.

In 2006, Nassif, dubbed "King Rat" by his detractors, turned state witness against his former friend, Agliotti, in return for indemnity for the Kebble murder.

But Kgomo denied him indemnity yesterday, saying he had been "unconvinced" by Nassif.

"I formed an impression that he was not telling this court the whole truth. Why he was never discredited by the state I will never know."

The National Prosecuting Authority, which has been left with egg on its face by the judgment, refused to comment last night on whether Nassif would be prosecuted.

A delighted Agliotti, grinning from ear to ear, hugged well-wishers and journalists after he was discharged yesterday. He posed for the cameras and did not look back as he left court room 4C, where he has spent much of the past four months.

He told The Times that he was "hugely relieved" by the verdict.

''Really, really I am excited. I'm going home to spend time with my family . ja, I'm exhausted - it's been a long four months.''

In his judgment, Kgomo said the now defunct Scorpions, who had arranged indemnity for Nassif and the three men contracted to kill Kebble - Mikey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel "Kappie" Smith - ''wanted the accused [Agliotti] so badly it did not matter how the evidence was procured''.

Kgomo said he got the impression from the testimony of the investigating officer that ''this case played second fiddle" to the prosecution of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Referring to the state's decision to withdraw the original prosecutors at the beginning of the trial , Kgomo said ''it became clear that some power-play was the order of the day within the Scorpions".

''Material statements that could have played pivotal roles in this case were not handed over to the new team,'' he said.

Though he revoked Nassif's indemnity, Kgomo said he could not deny indemnity to Schultz, Smith and McGurk, the team that shot Kebble on the night of September 27 2005.

"I am satisfied, unfortunately or fortunately, with their evidence," said Kgomo.

Though Agliotti was overjoyed by the judgment, it offered little comfort to the Kebble family.

"There is no smile on my face," said Guy Kebble, Brett's brother, who was not in court yesterday. ''We don't move forward. It has been over five years of trauma . we would like to put some of it to rest."

He said the family was "not surprised" that Agliotti was acquitted but he questioned the criminal justice system and "the incompetence of the state".

"This is not a surprise. We knew the prosecution was weak. This does not bode well for the criminal justice system as a whole," Kebble said.

Last night, the NPA denied that the judgment was "an embarrassment", saying it did not "regret" replacing the original prosecuting team.

Judge Kgomo said the trial was reminiscent of The Godfather movie, and he likened Kebble to the Don character.

"This case is about hidden and sinister agendas perpetuated by shady characters, as well as ostensibly crooked or greedy business persons," he said.

Nassif, said Kgomo, was "the one witness who could have connected Agliotti to the charges but he totally failed".

"Everyone who testified for the state did not implicate the accused [Agliotti] in any wrongdoing. Not even the shooters expressly stated that Agliotti conspired to kill Kebble, or that he conspired to shoot [former Allan Gray auditor Stephen] Mildenhall," said Kgomo.

Kgomo did not mince his words when it came to the inadequacy of the state's case.

He lamented the state's submissions, in opposing Agliotti's application for a discharge, calling their heads of argument "unhelpful, with little reference to evidence from the court record".





TIMELINE:

  • September 27 2005, 9pm - Brett Kebble was shot and killed in his Mercedes-Benz on a bridge over the M1 highway in Melrose, northern Johannesburg.


  • November 16 2006 - Glenn Agliotti was charged with Kebble's murder.


  • January 2008 - Former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi was arrested for corruption, based on his relationship with convicted druglord Agliotti.


  • July 26 2010 - Agliotti's trial begins in the Johannesburg High Court


  • August 3 2010 - Selebi is found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 15 years in jail.


  • November 4 2010 - Agliotti applies for the charges against him to be dismissed.


  • November 25 2010 - Agliotti is acquitted of murdering Kebble.
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