South African top cop Selebi faces corruption charges

( dpa )- South Africa's top cop Jackie Selebi failed in his dramatic court bid Friday to prevent the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) bringing charges against him over his alleged links to organized crime.

The decision paves the way for the NPA to press ahead with charges of corruption and defeating the course of justice against the national police commissioner, who also heads international police body Interpol.

Pretoria High Court judge Nico Coetzee struck Selebi's application for an urgent interdict staying the charges off the roll, saying the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute if Selebi , who has been dogged by allegations of criminal links, were not prosecuted.

In a move described as unprecedented by legal experts Selebi had asked the court to halt the NPA investigation and compel the prosecutors to provide to full details of the allegations against him.

The NPA, it a responding affidavit, confirmed for the first time Friday it was preparing to lay charges against the controversial police chief.

Selebi's failed preemptive strike against the NPA came after a first attempt to prosecute him was brought to an abrupt end in September following an intervention by President Thabo Mbeki.

Directly after the NPA obtained arrest and search warrants against Selebi , Mbeki suspended the authority's head, Vusi Pikoli , ostensibly over the latter's working style but in what opposition parties saw as an attempt by Mbeki to protect his crime czar.

The new acting NPA head, Mokotedi Mpshe , cancelled the arrest warrant and ordered a review of the case against Selebi . Since the review was concluded in November South Africans have been eagerly awaiting news on his fate.

The investigation into Selebi grew out of a probe into the 2005 murder of corrupt mining magnate Brett Kebble and the latter's criminal connections, codenamed Project Bad Guys.

In his interdict application, Selebi had sought to make out the the elite crime-busting arm of the NPA - the Scorpions - was merely trying to ensure its survival by pursuing a high-profile investigation.

The Scorpions have been accused of politically motivated investigations over their pursuit of new African National Congress head Jacob Zuma , also for alleged corruption.

While denying allegations he might be on the take from criminals in a country battling some of the world's highest crime levels, Selebi has admitted to a friendship with a convicted member of a drug smuggling ring, Glenn Agliotti .

"It is difficult to imagine a police force being galvanized to fight criminals with a chief seemingly so flawed," a frustrated Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote in a recent opinion article.

Reacting to the anti- Selebi court ruling Friday a spokesman for the NPA said the body "knew very well there was nothing unlawful in what we have done or are doing" and that it would "regroup" to decide on its next move in the case.

Over 19,000 people are murdered each year in South Africa and over 50,000 rape cases reported.

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