The Scorpions freed thugs to nail Selebi
"RIDICULOUSLY lenient plea bargains" made by the disbanded Scorpions to prosecute former police commissioner Jackie Selebi has cost the state another blow as three alleged drug dealers were acquitted yesterday.
Stefanos Paparas, 45, his 74-year-old father Dimitri and their driver, Stanley Poonin were yesterday acquitted of drug dealing in a surprise judgment in the Germiston magistrate's court by Magistrate Deon Snyman.
Snyman said the three main witnesses, Glenn Agliotti, Clinton Nassif and Robert Lottman, received such good deals from the anti-corruption unit that they had every reason to lie about the case.
Lottman was arrested with Pedro Marques, Christiaan Alblas, Dimitri Paparas and Poonin in a raid of a warehouse in 2006 where R250million worth of hashish was allegedly found.
Stefanos Paparas later handed himself over to the police.
Lottman, Marques and Alblas all made plea bargains with the Scorpions, to put pressure on Agliotti, known as the "Landlord" and the key player in the syndicate.
Agliotti's evidence was used to implicate and prosecute Selebi.
Agliotti agreed to turn state witness against Selebi in exchange for a lenient sentence on the drug trafficking charges and was also acquitted in November last year of any involvement in the murder of slain mining magnate Brett Kebble.
At the time Judge Frans Kgomo said: "Everyone who testified for the state did not implicate the accused (Agliotti) in any wrongdoing, not even the shooters in the matter".
Agliotti's co-accused in that matter, who included Mickey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel Smith, who shot Kebble, received indemnity from prosecution, after testifying against Agliotti.
Advocate Sita Kolbe, who represented Paparas, said yesterday the judgment was a surprise, as the case was not set for judgment.
She said the magistrate was scathing on the Scorpions for bungling the investigation.
"He (the magistrate) said the witnesses all had reason to lie as they got such wonderful deals from the state," Kolbe said.
The magistrate also found no official record of the chain of custody of the hashish used by the Scorpion's mole to trap Lottman in a trade on 5 July 2006.
The NPA's spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga yesterday said "naturally, as prosecutors, we are disappointed with any acquittal, we'll study the judgment, reflect on all issues raised by the magistrate during judgment and decide on the legal avenue to explore".
He said the NPA would only then decide whether to appeal.