JOHANNESBURG— A judge sentenced South Africa's former national police chief to 15 years in prison on corruption charges Tuesday, saying he was an embarrassment to the crime-plagued country and the police officers who had served under him.
Jackie Selebi, 60, was convicted in July after a nation beset by violent crime heard months of testimony about its top cop going on designer shopping sprees with a convicted drug smuggler.
The case against Selebi, a one-time president of Interpol, has been a chief exhibit in a national debate over whether corruption and political meddling are undermining South Africa's fight against crime. On Tuesday, Judge Meyer Joffe called Selebi "an embarrassment to all right-thinking citizens in this country."
The judge cited a past speech by Selebi on law enforcement in which he said that police would stop corruption "so we can fight crime with clean hands."
"It is inconceivable that in a court the chief of police would be found to be an unreliable witness," Joffe said, adding that Selebi was "a stranger to the truth."
During sentencing broadcast live on nationwide television, Selebi showed no emotion. The court freed Selebi on bail Tuesday to file an appeal, and his lawyers said they would do so.
Selebi, once an important official in the governing African National Congress party, had pleaded innocent. He claimed evidence was fabricated for the charge he accepted money and gifts in exchange for meeting a drug smuggler's business associates and tipping him off to investigations into his crimes.