A haven for foreign crooks

2012-04-22 10:00
Mandy Wiener
Radovan Krejcir’s name is ubiquitous in the columns of print space dedicated to the murky South African underworld of gangland killings and mobster dealings.

If there is a hint of a hit or any insinuation of organised crime, invariably his name will be mentioned. Strip club king Lolly Jackson. Security boss Cyril Beeka. Private investigator Kevin Trytsman. Sports car tuner Uwe Gemballa. “Mr Cocaine” Chris Couremetis. Lawyer Ian Jordaan.

Teazers protégé Mark Andrews. All dead.

But while Krejcir’s name is tenuously associated with all these murders, there is no known, firm evidence linking him to the crimes.

When the Czech businessman is asked if he is in any way responsible for any of these deaths, he jokes in a thick accent that he is “Mr Banana Peel” – if anything goes wrong it’s always, somehow, his fault.

There are two hypotheses.

Either Krejcir is the most sophisticated, brilliant gangster the country has ever harboured, or he is a convenient villain for an ineffectual police force that lacks the ability to solve any of these complex crimes.

Either way, Krejcir has exposed the weaknesses in a malleable system.

On Monday, prosecutor Riegel du Toit told the South Gauteng Magistrates’ Court the state was provisionally withdrawing charges against Krejcir for his alleged involvement in a R4.5 million insurance fraud. The main witness against Krejcir had wobbled.

He decided that he didn’t want the plea bargain agreement and suspended sentence he claimed he was bullied into by private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, but would rather have indemnity via a ­
now-notorious “Section 204” agreement – the deal that gave immunity to mining tycoon Brett Kebble’s killers.

Krejcir was arrested in March last year. You would remember a late-night raid by the Hawks on the wrong house, an alleged hitlist being discovered in a safe and heavily armed cops lining the walls of the courtroom on his first appearance. But this week, the case fizzled out unceremoniously.

Tomorrow, Krejcir will appear in the North Gauteng Magistrates’ Court on a charge of armed robbery. The National Prosecuting Authority claims he, along with two others, held up a Pakistani-owned electronics store in Pretoria. But it’s likely that charge will also be withdrawn soon.

It’s been suggested the original prosecutor who was tasked with the docket was pulled off the case because she wanted it to be watertight before going to court. Instead, the case was given to an advocate who was willing to run the trial.

O’Sullivan’s hand can be seen in both cases. The man who made it his mission to bring down former police chief Jackie Selebi now has Krejcir in his sights and is the real driver behind these cases. But while the Scorpions in the Selebi case were crafty enough to keep O’Sullivan at arm’s length, the Hawks have kept him close, providing Krejcir’s lawyers with an easy target.

With those two pending matters dealt with, there will just be an extradition case for Krejcir to fight. Krejcir wants to stay here as he fears he will be killed in the Czech Republic because of his politics.

But why South Africa? What does Krejcir want with us?

“Well, I always believe for the justice here in this country what I said couple of times. And I want this justice. I want the final of this case. I want to know what’s going to happen. I want to be acquitted. I want to be found not guilty for this case because I never done anything wrong.”

Krejcir is not unique. In December last year, it emerged that a Serbian fugitive, Dobrosav Gavric AKA “The Arkan Slayer”, had been hiding out in South Africa for months, undetected.

Sasa Kovacevic’s true identity only came to light because he happened to be driving Beeka’s car when he was gunned down. Gavric has claimed he came to South Africa because it was a stable country with a solid society that offered his family new opportunities.

A multitude of central and eastern European characters share his sentiments and have established themselves in Cape Town over the past few months, seizing control of the security industry. They are washing up on our shores for a reason: the perception of a weak criminal justice system, and a judiciary, police force and political elite that appear susceptible and vulnerable.

The lack of accountability by anyone for the murder of a high-profile figure like Kebble would have added to that perception. With the police lacking the sophistication to fight organised crime, those who know how to manipulate the system flourish because for them, South Africa is alive
with possibility.

» Wiener is an Eyewitness News reporter and the author of Killing Kebble