A trail of death, diamonds and deceit

2011-03-26 16:04

A chance encounter in a Kempton Park police cell opened the door to South Africa’s criminal underworld for alleged Czech “mob boss” Radovan Krejcir – and introduced him to some of its most powerful and controversial figures.

Four years later, two of his closest associates – strip club boss Lolly Jackson and security consultant and underworld figure Cyril Beeka – are dead, while one, George Louka, is on the run.

It was the disappearance of German millionaire Uwe Gemballa and the murder of Jackson last May – allegedly by Louka – that set in motion the chain of events which culminated in ­Krejcir’s arrest on Friday.

It was a week that shone an uncomfortable spotlight on a larger-than-life coterie of crooks that is now collapsing as its members flee the law, are gunned down or face justice.

It was the dogged determination of civilian crime buster Paul O’Sullivan, famed for his investigations into corrupt former police chief Jackie Selebi, that unravelled the complex web of murder, schemes and scams.

The story began on April 21 2007 when police and South African Secret Service agents at OR Tambo International Airport detained a man, identified in his Seychelles passport as Egbert Julius Savy, after he disembarked from a flight from Madagascar.

The passport had been bought, along with Seychellois citizenship, for an “economic investment” of $25 000 (R185 063 at the current exchange rate) in the island’s government by Krejcir.

Flagged by Interpol as a fugitive wanted in the Czech Republic for alleged fraud and conspiracy to commit murder, it seemed that Krejcir, who had been on the run from his homeland since March 2005, had run out of luck.

In fact, Krejcir had stumbled onto a new opportunity and a new home.

For six weeks he was held in the Kempton Park police cells. There he met Louka, who had been arrested on charges of fraud and possession of stolen goods valued at R8 million.

When Krejcir was released on bail of R1 million, Louka was ­waiting for him.

In an interview last year, one of Krejcir’s closest associates, Jerome Safi, explained that the two men had “spent about a month in the same cell and obviously formed a friendship”.

According to Safi, Louka introduced Krejcir to Alekos Panayi, a banker attached to Laiki Bank who would later implicate Jackson and Krejcir in a complex money-laundering scheme.

Krejcir then met Jackson, who shared his love of cars, at a Ferrari Day event, Krejcir told Media24 Investigations last year.

Krejcir eventually moved into a R30-million mansion down the road from Jackson in Bedfordview and the two cemented their friendship.

Krejcir ensconced himself at the Harbour Restaurant at Bedford Centre. There he would hold court behind a bullet-proof screen, often with Jackson at his table, their ­supercars vying for attention outside.

The pair lavished gifts on one another. Jackson gave Krejcir a guitar signed by U2’s Bono and worth R250 000.

They had a champagne lifestyle. They were fixated on fast cars, beautiful women and inordinate quantities of Jägermeister and bottles of Moët et Chandon. Krejcir is reputed to have spent R100 000 on a bar bill for a birthday celebration.

A self-proclaimed “billionaire”, he drew shadowy ­“businessmen” to him like moths to a flame.

Enter Cyril Beeka, the reputed boss of the Cape Town underworld and a national security adviser to a courier company.

Beeka was also soon a fixture at Krejcir’s side and later a business partner in alleged deals in gold and uncut diamonds.

Figures from both sides of the fence made their way to his table – people like Gauteng police crime intelligence boss ­General Joey Mabasa.

Others included Mikey Schultz, the violent boxer and hitman who shot mining magnate Brett Kebble dead in a bizarre “assisted suicide”. Drug lord Glenn Agliotti, the man who bribed Selebi, was also involved in business with Krejcir.

In an interview with Media24 Investigations last year, Krejcir scoffed at suggestions that he was a “Mafia boss”.

“People find me because they believe I have got money; that I am an opportunity for them. So people are coming like a bee to honey.”

But the beginning of the end was being written even as he swaggered.
 
The disappearance of German supercar trader Gemballa on a business trip to South Africa was a turning point.

Gemballa was to meet a Krejcir associate about a business proposition, but he was not seen alive again after arriving at OR Tambo International Airport on February 8 last year.

Gemballa’s corpse was unearthed in a shallow grave in ­September last year. Shortly after his disappearance, Gemballa called his wife on a cellphone linked to a Krejcir associate and said that he urgently needed €1 million (about R9.6 million).

Shortly after Gemballa’s killing on May 10 last year, Krejcir’s good friend and alleged partner in money-laundering, Jackson, was shot dead, allegedly by Louka, in a house in Kempton Park. Once again, the spotlight fell on Krejcir.

Finally, on Monday this week, Beeka was gunned down in Cape Town by a hit team. Again the spotlight turned to Krejcir, since Beeka’s name was found in the Czech’s home on what police described as a “hit list”.

Beeka’s death came as pressure was mounting on Krejcir.

Krejcir’s personal physician, Dr Marian Tupy, entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and implicated Krejcir in a R4.5-million medical insurance scam.

On Tuesday police burst through the door of his mansion armed with a warrant to bring him in to answer to a fraud charge and to question him about Beeka’s murder. Krejcir was nowhere to be found.

In the early hours of Friday morning the frantic hunt for Krejcir came to an end when, accompanied by his lawyer, he handed himself over to the police.

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