Taxi boss nabbed in party attack

2008-12-05 00:00

FIRST they were robbed at gunpoint, then labelled racists and liars in the media. Now, after police made a breakthrough in the armed robbery that some claimed never happened and recovered the goods that were reportedly never stolen, well-known Durban businessman Nick Gahagan wants an apology.

Late last month Gahagan hosted a party at his La Lucia home for two families emigrating to Australia and the United States. As guests arrived they noticed four tough-looking young men hanging around a silver-grey BMW sedan. The young toughs smiled at guests as they walked in, reassuring them that they were, in fact, car guards.

But within minutes of the farewell party beginning, the young toughs stormed inside, threatening guests at gunpoint and stealing jewellery, cash, wallets and Gahagan’s massive plasma TV.

When Gahagan complained that Durban North police took an hour to respond to his call, police spokesman Vincent Mdunge went on the offensive. In statements he has since denied making, Mdunge was quoted in the media suggesting the robbery was a hoax and that Gahagan and his guests racially abused police as they responded to the scene.

Mdunge has since claimed that he merely said that if Gahagan had faked the armed robbery, he would face legal action.

On Wednesday night Gahagan was vindicated. Inspector Keith Caswell of the KZN Provincial House Robbery Task Team received information as to where property stolen from Gahagan’s house could be found. Last week his informer showed him the street where the alleged robbers lived, but could not point out the exact home.

Hoping that the stolen property would lead him to the robbers, Caswell organised a midnight raid on a compound built by a wealthy kwaMashu taxi owner to house his drivers. His informer had told him that the girlfriend of one of the drivers was in possession of property taken during the Gahagan robbery.

Accompanied by members of the Durban dog unit, the house robbery unit searched the compound and uncovered property stolen during the Gahagan robbery. The woman with the stolen property told police she had bought the goods from her lover’s boss — a well-known local taxi operator.

Police went to the taxi man’s opulent mansion in kwaMashu — where Inspector Warren Hutt and Constable Susan Davidson of the dog unit made a strange discovery.

The gate of the fenced property opened the instant police approached, but closed on them once they made it inside. Fearing a possible ambush, police entered the mansion with guns drawn — discovering room after room furnished with top-end furniture, leather lounge suites and expensive electronic goods.

On the second floor, the master bedroom door was the only one locked. When no one would open it, Hutt kicked the door down and found the taxi boss hiding naked in his bedroom.

The taxi boss initially denied any knowledge of the stolen property and was friendly and co-operative. However, when police began to search his home he tried to lunge at Davidson.

Rather than scaring police off, the attempted attack saw him overpowered, handcuffed and the search intensified. Police soon uncovered a quantity of dagga and number punches of the size and shape often used by car thieves to fake engine and chassis numbers. Hutt then discovered an unlicensed 9mm pistol with its serial number ground off.

Next, Inspector Mayen Naidoo of the house robbery unit noticed that the cables of many of the taxi boss’s electronic goods had been cut off — a telltale sign that they may have been taken in smash-and-grab robberies. With his drugs, illegal gun and possibly stolen electronic goods seized, the taxi boss offered to co-operate with police.

He admitted to having sold Gahagan’s property to his employee’s girlfriend — but denied knowing it was stolen.

He offered to lead police to the man who supplied him the goods — and take them to the home of the man to whom he had sold a large plasma screen TV.

Police stormed the home of the seller, a short drive from the taxi boss, but found no sign of their man.

The young woman living in the house admitted to having been the seller’s girlfriend at one time, but said she had not seen him for months. However, when Ali Farouk of the house robbery unit examined the woman’s computer he discovered pornography showing the woman having sex with a man police have long suspected of being an armed robber, but have never convicted.

The taxi boss confirmed the male amateur porn star was the man he bought the Gahagan property from.

Shocked and embarrassed, the woman initially admitted the pics were of a man she once went out with, but denied she was the woman in them. Later she claimed the pictures were of her, but had been taken a very long time ago, before she broke up with the suspect. But the photos carried an electronic stamp showing they were taken well after the woman claimed she had lost contact with her lover.

She was not arrested or charged with any offence, but police recorded her contact details and ID number. Subsequent investigations led police to another home in the area, where they discovered Gahagan’s stolen plasma television.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Jay Naicker confirmed the arrest of the taxi boss on gun charges, as well as the arrest of the taxi driver’s girlfriend. Naicker said more arrests are imminent.

Gahagan said he is “delighted” with the breakthrough and will be asking Mdunge for an apology.

Said Gahagan: “It was not pleasant being called by the media wanting comments on claims that I faked the robbery and racially abused policemen. All I want is an apology — if that doesn’t come, I’ll consider a defamation action.”

Mdunge has not laid any complaint with the Press Ombudsman, nor complained to any of the media outlets he alleges misquoted him.

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