Selebi’s unable to pay his R17m legal debt

2013-07-28 14:00

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Former police commissioner Jackie Selebi owes the state R17.4?million in legal fees paid on his behalf during his corruption trial – but the state is not likely to recover the money.

Selebi, granted medical parole last year after spending only 229 days of his 15-year sentence in prison, is battling financially and is unable to pay his debts.

City Press understands Selebi’s lawyers informed the SA Police Service during negotiations over the debt that he simply doesn’t have the money.

Police denied that Selebi is getting preferential treatment after the DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard questioned why police were dragging their feet in recouping the money.

“The perception that Mr Selebi is being given any special treatment by the state on this matter is not true,” said Zweli Mnisi, spokesperson for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, on Friday.

“The lawyers acting for Mr Selebi provided the department with necessary, relevant information regarding his personal and financial situation. This information will have to be carefully considered by the national commissioner, who has to decide whether Mr Selebi will have to pay the whole or part of the amount owed by him.”

Last month, Selebi’s lawyer, Wynanda Coetzee, said “there is just not enough money” for Selebi to pay his legal fees.

In 2010, during Selebi’s high court case, his assets reportedly amounted to R3.4?million. This emerged when the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) was granted an attachment order amounting to R320?722 – the amount he received from convicted drug trafficker Glen Agliotti.

At the time, Selebi’s assets included a house in upmarket Waterkloof Ridge in Pretoria East and investments of about R400?000.

It emerged during the AFU’s application the house was bought for R820?000 in 1998.

The decision on how to proceed with recovering the debt now rests with police commissioner General Riah Phiyega, who will rely on the Public Finance Management Act.

Section 76 of the act stipulates that, as accounting officer, Phiyega is entitled to write off debts owed to the state if she is convinced “recovery would cause undue hardship to the debtor or his or her dependants”.

Phiyega would also have to be convinced that recovery of the debt would be “uneconomical” and that “all reasonable steps have been taken to recover the debt and the debt is irrecoverable” or that it “would be to the advantage of the state to effect a settlement of its claim or to waive the claim”.

“This information will have to be carefully considered by the national commissioner, who has to decide whether Mr Selebi will have to pay the whole or part of the amount owed by him,” said Mnisi.

He said Phiyega would have to apply the rules of “natural justice” when considering the matter.

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