South Africa’s Top Cop Ordered to Stand Trial

Clare Nullis, AP, June 26, 2008

A court on Thursday ordered the nation’s top cop to stand trial on corruption charges next year, widening a leadership vacuum in law enforcement agencies struggling to control one of the world’s highest crime rates.

Jackie Selebi is accused of accepting bribes from a businessman who was convicted of drug smuggling and of trying to shield him from prosecution. Selebi has been on a leave of absence from the police commissioner post since he was charged last February, when he also quit as president of Interpol.

The head of the National Prosecuting Authority is also suspended as part of a bitter turf war against the police, and tensions within the police led to an armed standoff in downtown Johannesburg late Wednesday.

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Prosecutors allege that Glen Agliotti gave Selebi cash handouts whenever he demanded. In return, the prosecuting authority said, Selebi turned a blind eye to Agliotti’s involvement in transporting large quantities of illegal drugs, and tipped him off that British investigators were on his trail. Selebi has denied any wrongdoing.

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South Africa is notorious for its rampant crime, with more than 50 murders per day and the highest reported rape rate in the world. Yearly crime statistics to be released next Monday will reveal whether the government has made any headway in tackling the violence which may deter many fans from the 2010 World Cup.

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