Krejcir scoffs at 'Mafia boss' claims
Julian Rademeyer, Rapport
Johannesburg - Fugitive Czech billionaire Radovan Krejcir scoffs at suggestions that he is “some big Mafia boss from the Eastern Bloc” and says he has “absolutely nothing to hide”.
Breaking his silence ahead of a renewed bid by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to have him extradited to the Czech Republic, Krejcir told Rapport he was the victim of “fabricated stories” and a “dirty plan” concocted to “get me deported from this country, either legally or illegally”.
He says that his record in the Czech Republic is “clean” and claims the country's Constitutional Court has overturned a prison sentenced imposed on him. Despite this, the Czech authorities still want him extradited.
Krejcir has accused “elements” in the NPA and police, Czech intelligence operatives and prominent whistleblower Paul O'Sullivan – who describes Krejcir as the head of an “evil trans-national crime syndicate” that “wants to control the underworld in South Africa” - of conspiring against him.
He claims O'Sullivan is in the pay of the Czech intelligence services and “stands to benefit by $500 000” if Krejcir is successfully extradited. O'Sullivan on Saturday laughed off the claim.
Wealth and power
Krejcir - who was sentenced in absentia in the Czech Republic to six-and-a-half years imprisonment for tax fraud and reportedly investigated on charges of conspiracy to murder, counterfeiting, extortion and abduction – is a flamboyant man, given to ostentatious displays of wealth and power.
In recent weeks his links to a coterie of controversial South African businessmen and underworld figures has been in the spotlight.
He arrived in South Africa in 2007 and was arrested at OR Tambo international airport on an Interpol “red notice” while travelling with a Seychelles passport, issued in the name Egbert Jules Savy. An application for his extradition was unsuccessful.
Krejcir, who has applied for political asylum, has since ensconced himself in South Africa. He holds court at the Harbour Fish Market restaurant in the Bedford Centre, usually with one of his two Porsches, a Lamborghini Murcielago, a Ferrari Spider or a Mercedes parked in a private, roped-off bay near the front door. He has free reign of the restaurant.
One corner of the outside patio is shielded with bullet-proof glass, installed at Krejcir's expense after he discovered that a “Russian hit team” had been sent to South Africa by the Czech government to snatch or kill him and planned to position snipers in a block of flats across the road from the restaurant.
Until his murder in May this year, Teazers strip club boss Lolly Jackson – along with George Smith, the man who would be accused of his murder, were Krejcir's frequent companions at the restaurant.
Krejcir's R20m Bedfordview home – which he shares with his wife Katerina Krejcirova, a 9-month-old baby boy and their teenage son, is a four storey mansion replete with a steel and glass lift, aquarium and an infinity pool looking out over the Johannesburg skyline. They also own a holiday home on the Vaal Dam.
Once a week he rents Kyalami racetrack so that he and his son can race superbikes and sportscars. “Lolly and I were very good friends because of my sickness with cars. I love cars. He loved cars. Every week we rented Kyalami for two hours to have some adrenaline because I cannot travel, I cannot do fuck-all. I really love these toys.”
Krejcir says he has no desire to return to the Czech Republic. “I believe this is the best country in the world,” he said this week. “I don't want to go to the Czech Republic because I'll never have the chance of a fair trial and they will kill me.”
There, 5km from the capital, Prague, Krejcir once lived on a 2 000m² estate in a villa estimated to have cost R151m. It boasted a squash court, basketball court, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a giant aquarium containing reef sharks, a 1.7m moray eel and “other dangerous fishes”. There was also an enclosure on the property for a pet tiger.
Czech police say the house contained a secret strongroom packed with weapons, jewellery, share certificates and classified police documents.
The Velvet Revolution
Krejcir had amassed a fortune by the time he was 30, making most it during the wave of state industry privatisation that followed the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” which saw the overthrow of the authoritarian communist government.
In June 2005, balaclava-clad security police and state prosecutors swooped on Krejcir's home. Press reports suggest that Krejcir escaped through a bathroom window. According to press reports, he was supposedly spotted three days later in neighbouring Slovakia at a petrol station filling up the tank of a Lamborghini.
He says he was allowed to leave by a state prosecutor. “In my bathroom there was no window. I don't know how you could escape from 20 guys with machine guns and masks on their faces.”
In the wake of his disappearance, police said they had found billions of crowns in fake currency at a factory owned by Krejcir.
Mixed into the boxes of cash was 8 million Czech crowns (about R3m) of genuine currency.
Krejcir says the boxes of cash were an elaborate gift for a close friend who was turning 40. “We as rich people after the revolution gave some presents like this. The top and bottom of the boxes was real money and the middle was fake and inside it would say: 'Happy birthday'”
“So you give a present that looks like it is billions of crowns but in reality it is only 8 million crowns.”
Krejcir next turned up in the Seychelles where he gave financial support to the ruling elite. As a result, he says, “they offered me and my family a new identity”.
“I submitted an application and received from Home Affairs passports under the name Egbert Jules Savy for me, Sandra Savy for my wife and Greg Savy for my son. I came to South Africa believing my passport was a genuine one.”
The Seychelles authorities later claimed the passports were fake.
But Krejcir says “it is not important if the passport is false or not because if you are successful in getting political asylum, it doesn't matter how you ended up in the this country because you tried to save your life.”
Krejcir argues that he is a Seychelles citizen and that his Czech citizenship lapsed when he accepted a new passport.
In the Seychelles, to stave off boredom, he wrote a book titled: Radovan Krejcir - Revealed.
“It was so boring there, like being a prisoner in paradise,” he said. “At least I could go diving and fishing...”
In the book he claimed he had advanced about R20m for the 2002 election campaign of Czech Social Democratic candidate Stanislav Gross and in exchange had received a promissory note which stipulated that if the election bid was successful, Krejcir would be given control of the State oil company, Cepro.
Gross later did an about turn and Krejcir was arrested on a “trumped-up charge of fraud”.
That same year, Krejcir's father was kidnapped. He was never seen again. Krejcir alleges his father was killed by Czech state agents who believed he had the promissory note in his possession. He believes his father's body was dissolved in a vat of acid.
The Czech Godfather
In early 2006, while Krejcir sunned himself on the Seychelles beaches, Czech newspapers linked him to the assassination of Frantisek Mrazek, the so-called “Godfather” of organised crime in the country.
Mrazek was shot by a sniper outside the building that housed his offices.
Krejcir laughs when asked if he had anything to do with the killing.
“Yes, I shot one bullet from the Seychelles and the bullet travelled all the way direct to his heart. I'm very good.
“What must I say my man? I saw this guy twice in my life. We never had a fight. It is the same situation as my father. They killed him and afterwards said it was my criminals. All the time it was the top government and secret service guys.”
“They say he (Mrazek) was the boss of the Mafia. Apparently, if you believe them, there are Mafia bosses all over the place. If you know any more people from the Czech republic, you probably know more bosses. I must be the worst one because I am wanted for murders and all this.”
Krejcir – who suggests his detractors have found him guilty by association – readily admits that he befriended or became acquainted with several of South Africa's most controversial businessmen and notorious underworld figures.
Among them were Jackson, Smith, security company kingpin Cyril Beeka, Brett Kebble murder accused and convicted druglord Glen Agliotti, banker and self-confessed money launderer Alekos Panayi and Gauteng police crime intelligence head, Commissioner Joey Mabasa.
“So what?” he asked. “People find me because they believe I've got money, that I'm an opportunity for them, that I can do some business with them. So the people are coming, especially to this restaurant, like a bee on honey.”
He said he had a wide network of contacts.
Krejcir said he befriended Jackson's alleged killer, George Smith, in April 2007 while he was awaiting his extradition hearing. The two shared a cell at Kempton Park police station and after their release, Smith helped him “get connected” introduced him to “most of the people” he knows today.
“I don't need anybody. I've got my money clean overseas. I've never made one rand in this country from any business. I'm enjoying my life. I bought property, assets, cars. I'm spending money which I brought in officially through the reserve banks of the Czech Republic and South Africa.”
Krejcir believes it will be to his advantage if the State wins their application tomorrow (Monday) for a review of the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court decision that has allowed him to remain in the country. If they do succeed, the State will proceed with a new extradition application.
“If they start it again, it will take another four years. Even if they decide to extradite me, they cannot do so until the political asylum case is finished.”