By Alex Eliseev

Accused of being the don of a "cop mafia", National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi has finally broken five months of silence.

He called a press conference in Pretoria on Sunday to respond to reports linking him to the criminal underworld.

For more than an hour, South Africa's top cop, who is also president of Interpol, fielded questions from reporters and repeatedly urged them to "ask me anything".

"I can take it on the chin," he said.

"But what I'm worried about is what this does to all the constables who have to look at me tomorrow.

"These hands are clean. I am not involved in any criminality."

The Sunday Times on Sunday reported on a 144-page dossier which allegedly reveals the inner workings of a "Mafia-styled organisation involving senior policemen".

Selebi, through his associations, is fingered.

"All these stories have absolutely no bearing on the truth," Selebi said.

He added that there was a smear campaign against him.

"As a person, I know some people. But none of them would do crime in my presence."

Selebi said he had known of the dossier since 2003. The following year, the matter went to court and the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) was ordered to investigate. But, to date, it was unable to get any hard evidence or witnesses to come forward.

Selebi said he knew the name of the man who compiled the dossier and leaked it to the press.

Selebi's deputy, Commissioner André Pruis, told of challenging the man to go public and attend the press conference, but he refused.

He said he had invited the man to go to the ICD once again and, if needed, the police would even be willing to ask President Thabo Mbeki to deal with the claims.

"There is a concerted effort to destabilise the law enforcement agencies in this country and only the criminals benefit," Pruis said.

The police commissioner noted that the individual in question had been investigated by the South African Police Service for allegedly buying restricted machinery, meant for police work, and using his reservist appointment card.

The police did not succeed in prosecuting him as they could not find the machine, which allegedly was purchased overseas.

Selebi said he would consider taking legal action against the man but had no immediate plans to arrest him.

"He has made it very clear that he will never rest and will stop at nothing to get at me. We believe he is producing a new dossier as we speak."

He said they had met once and had "no relationship".

Selebi also told of his link to businessman Glenn Agliotti, who was being investigated by the Scorpions for allegedly being the "Landlord" - the head of a major international crime syndicate.

"I do know Agliotti. The only thing I did with him was work on the Special Olympics promotion when Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor of California) was here.

"If I meet Agliotti, we are not conniving to do crime."

He admitted Agliotti called him from the scene of the murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble last year. But, he said, "many people" called him.

As for Clint Nassif, boss of a security company employed by Kebble and arrested last month for alleged fraud, Selebi said he had spoken to him once.

This, he explained, was during the kidnapping of 10-year-old Joburg boy Liam Aspeling.

The child was eventually found by Nassif's company.

He had not spoken to Nassif since.

Selebi said he was not aware of any police investigation into Agliotti, but admitted that Nassif had been probed in connection with stolen car parts.

The top cop also dismissed allegations that he had accepted a R50 000 bribe and been placed "in the pocket" of a criminal.

"R50 000 is a small amount for me. I would not be so cheap," he quipped.

"No such thing happened. I never take envelopes, except for my salary advice every month from the National Treasury. There is only one place where I get my money."

Regarding the reports that he was being investigated by the Scorpions Selebi said: "I have never asked the Scorpions but, as sure as day follows night, they are free to investigate. No one will find me guilty."

The Scorpions didn't need search warrants and were welcome to look into his financial affairs, he added.