2006-09-29 : Selebi, Agliotti and the dirty cops

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2006-09-29 : Selebi, Agliotti and the dirty cops

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2006-10-04 08:20

http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=285288&area=/insight/insight__national/

TOP STORY

Selebi, Agliotti and the dirty cops
Sam Sole, Stefaans Brümmer, Zukile Majova and Nic Dawes
29 September 2006 07:43

The Scorpions search warrant used to conduct last week’s raid on Glenn Agliotti -- friend of police chief Jackie Selebi and fixer for the late Brett Kebble -- has spotlighted Palto, a murky security company that freelanced for the police.

The Scorpions last week raided premises belonging to Agliotti, whom they have identified as “the Landlord”, a kingpin in a major drugs and contraband cigarette syndicate.

The search warrant lists Agliotti as a suspect alongside members of Palto, as well as senior police officials who were Palto’s contacts at police headquarters.

Allegations that Palto served as a cover for a crime syndicate remain unproven, but available evidence serves to reinforce the suspicion that the contraband syndicate was improperly linked to police at the highest levels. Selebi, who has tried to downplay his friendship with ­Agliotti after initially saying that Agliotti was “my friend, finish and klaar”, allegedly was close to Palto too.

Palto was set up in the late 1990s by Paul Stemmet, a bodyguard, karate expert and captain in the police reserve. After Selebi took over as police national commissioner in 2000, Palto quickly and controversially rose to prominence, conducting undercover operations on behalf of the police.

Several sources have told the Mail & Guardian that Stemmet had direct access to Selebi. Rapport reported in 2003 that Stemmet had his own parking spot at Wachthuis, the police headquarters in Pretoria.

According to evidence presented in a recent high court civil dispute, Palto was an undercover front for the South African Police Service’s intelligence services, and Stemmet reported directly to Deputy Commissioner Raymond Lala. The SAPS has consistently denied Palto performed operations on its behalf, although it concedes Palto members may have done so.

In interviews with the M&G, Selebi has been vague about his relationship with Stemmet, but claimed he had met him when Agliotti’s events company hosted a visit by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stemmet provided close protection. “There was never an arrangement between the SAPS and Palto as an organisation, there were people who were reservists,” Selebi told the M&G in a July interview.

Stemmet’s operation was blown in 2003, largely via disclosures by Willem Heath, who was engaged by Kebble at the time.

Palto was used among other things in police undercover operations to break drug and cigarette smuggling rings, but the Agliotti search warrant issued last week suggests that the Scorpions believe the Palto operation instead became a means to protect and cover for the syndicate.

The Scorpions warrant lists ­Agliotti as one of 12 persons suspected of crimes ranging from corruption to drug trafficking, money laundering and defeating the ends of justice. At least three of those named in the warrant, including Stemmet, worked for Palto. Two others, Inspector Charles Bezuidenhout and Captain Morné Nel, served as key liaison figure between the SAPS and Palto.

One case involving Stemmet that the M&G reported earlier provides suggestions as to how Palto may have been abused.

The case, involving counterfeit cigarettes imported from Namibia, saw a Palto operation intercept the consignment. Bezuidenhout planned to have part of the consignment sent to Cape Town, but the truck was stopped and searched by local Pretoria police, who suspected smuggling. Stemmet and Bezuidenhout allegedly tried to intervene, falsely claiming that the shipment was part of an official operation.

Now an inquest in the Benoni magistrate’s court has thrown dramatic light on Palto’s modus operandi — and its high-level police involvement.

Selebi has denied to the M&G that Stemmet did special tasks for him. “There are people who like name-dropping,” he said.

Inquest focus on 'Selebi’s special group'

An unidentified observer sat at the back of the Benoni magistrate’s court this week at the inquest into the death of Panile Zondo.

Zondo, a taxi boss from Daveyton on the East Rand, was shot dead during a Palto operation on April 23 2002. The observer was director Pikkie van Vuuren, a senior legal advisor with Crime Intelligence Service’s (CIS) head office in Pretoria.

Affidavits on the shooting obtained by the Mail & Guardian make it clear why he was there.

Although the inquest has yet to make any findings, the affidavits confirm the direct relationship between Palto, Paul Stemmet and senior members of the CIS. And they paint a disturbing picture of Palto’s methods.

Johannes Roux, a 34-year-old former policeman who was attached to the crime intelligence division at Johannesburg central police station at the time of Zondo’s killing, has made a detailed statement about the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

According to his affidavit, Roux and some of his colleagues began moonlighting for Palto around 1998. By 2000 he was passing information directly to Stemmet “as he gave me the impression he and his team … received special tasks from Commissioner Selebi …”

In 2002, Roux says, he was given information by a colleague about illegal AK-47s hidden at a house in Daveyton. “[the colleague] … was aware that I knew and shared information with Stemmet and his team, which was known as Commissioner Selebi’s special group”.

A meeting with Stemmet and his team, namely a “Nicky” from crime intelligence head office and police reservist Louwtjie Horn, was quickly set up.

A raid on the Daveyton house was planned, and Stemmet identified the need for heavier weaponry than the handguns the team was carrying, so Horn phoned a Johannesburg nightclub owner whom he thought could supply the team with “lang gewere [long guns]”.

Roux recognised this man’s name. He had previously asked crime intelligence Captain Morné Nel about allegations that he provided drugs to children at his club.

The man, Roux says, was being “looked after” by members of the police special task force. Nel warned him off, telling him not to “scratch” at a “sensitive case”.

The club owner supplied a veritable arsenal: an Uzi submachine gun with a silencer, an R4 rifle, and a shotgun with a drum magazine. He also came along for the ride.

On arrival at the house, the team burst into a backyard shack, where they subdued three men, and found AK-47 ammunition. They then moved on to the main house and “made use of a hammer and a special crowbar to break down the door”.

“I heard two muffled shots and a black woman screaming. These were not normal firearm shots but shots that were silenced,” Roux says.

According to an affidavit made by Horn, he shot the man — Panile Zondo — in self-defence after he had been fired on.

Roux describes the scene: “There was indeed a 9mm pistol lying on a bedside cupboard next to the bed. The wounded man was old, fat and breathing with difficulty.”

Zondo later died while receiving treatment from paramedics.

A local detective who arrived on the scene in apparent response to a 10111 call says in his own statement that when he got to the property the gates were locked, but a balaklava-clad man emerged and called out for the “captain”.

“A remarkably big man with a huge frame of body convinced me that they were from Pretoria, serving under Commissioner Jackie Selebi’s office.”

According to Roux, Stemmet then made a phone call to Senior Superintedent Manie Victor at crime intelligence head office. He “also called Commissioner [Ray] Lala.” Other affidavits add crucial corroborating detail.

Nicolaas Blackie is a former policeman and powerlifter who met Stemmet, also a keen weightlifter, at gym. Stemment offered him private security work to help pay for a trip to the powerlifting world championships.

According to an affidavit sworn by Blackie, Stemmet then introduced him to Nel, who described himself as Palto’s police handler.

Blackie subsequently transferred to crime intelligence gathering, where Nel and Victor became his immediate superiors.

The Daveyton raid, he says, was discussed with Victor, who provided an advance of about R40 000 to Stemmet.

Victor, who is one of the most senior officers at the crime intelligence head office in Pretoria, confirms in his own affidavit Nel’s position in his unit, although he notes that Nel has since resigned. He also confirms that an advocate representing the SAPS will ask the court not to insist on the attendence of Nel, for the sake of Nel’s safety.

Stemmet and Horn, he says, were reservists attached to crime intelligence since 2002 and had a “close connection” to crime intelligence and its confidential operations.

Victor says he was Stemmet’s direct superior and there is no direct reporting line from Stemmet to Lala.

As for the claim that Nel was Stemmet/Palto’s handler, Victor says it “touches again on the [confidential] methodology of the SAPS”, which he declines to disclose. — Sam Sole, Stefaans Brümmer, Zukile Majova and Nic Dawes
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