Newsmaker – Radovan Krejcir: Man of influence, means and power

2013-10-21 08:00

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Tying down an official face to face interview with an alleged mafioso can be quite a difficult thing.

It’s dangled enticingly before you as questions are submitted and an address is confirmed, but then, just hours before the appointed time, it is whipped away with a curt SMS.

While Radovan Krejcir has done numerous in-depth interviews in the past, he seemed to reach saturation point last week: “Why I must tell you my story again? Why you don’t ask for an interview when I’m not in the news?” he asked.

The pressure from all the attention following the gangland-style murder of his associate Bassam “Cripple Sam” Issa in Bedfordview, Joburg, last Saturday was starting to tell.

“If there is a tsunami in South Africa, they say it is my fault. I wake up every morning worrying about who has died the night before, because they will say it is me,” he said, explaining his reluctance to talk.

In the end, he agreed to my request, but his lawyers pulled the interview, citing concerns around his ongoing legal bid for asylum.

Despite the mystery and intrigue around Krejcir, much of his back story is known, thanks to lengthy affidavits submitted in numerous court cases.

In disguise, he arrived in this country from the Seychelles in 2007 on a fake passport with the name Egbert Jules Savey. He was duly arrested on an Interpol red notice.

In his bail application in the Kempton Park Magistrates’ Court, he claimed he had been persecuted and tortured in his home country, where he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

The root cause of this was Krejcir’s financial backing of Czech Social Democratic Party candidate Stanislav Gross.

In return, Krejcir was promised control of a state-owned petroleum company, but once Gross took power he apparently backtracked and refused to honour the agreement.

Krejcir claims he was wrongfully arrested, detained and tortured by Czech government officials. While in custody, his father Lambert was kidnapped and killed. His body was never found.

Krejcir became a veritable hero in his home country in 2005 when he managed to slip away from police during a six-hour search of his home. His version is that he bribed the cops, but those in the know say the officers made a mistake.

Czech authorities flatly deny Krejcir’s claims of a conspiracy and insist he is a criminal and a fugitive from justice wanted on charges of conspiracy to murder, tax evasion, extortion and abduction.

He has also been convicted in absentia on charges of tax fraud.

On the run from shadowy forces, Krejcir sought refuge in the Seychelles, where he set up a car rental company and ingratiated himself with the president’s son there.

He lived comfortably in the island state with his wife Katerina and son Denis.

He penned his memoirs, in which he details extensive bribery and corruption, and then set his eyes on South Africa, because it had “the best Constitution in the world”.

Since his arrival here, Krejcir has built himself up from the police cells in Kempton Park to become a man of influence, means and power.

The 44-year-old is euphemistically referred to as a “businessman” because no one is really quite sure what he does for a living.

One of his greatest frustrations, it would seem, is on how to bring his billions stashed overseas into this country.

Krejcir has settled in Bedfordview in a mansion on Kloof Street. His son attends nearby Saheti School and is a regular at the Bedford Centre.

For years, he made the Harbour Restaurant his de facto office, where he would sip on cylindrical bottles of imported Voss mineral water and snack on sushi during “meetings”, his matt-black Mercedes-Benz in the handicapped parking space outside.

He also has a fleet of supercars in his garage.

He has made frequent appearances in court in his requisite uniform of jeans, black T-shirt and black blazer, grizzly beard and sunglasses.

He oozes charm and charisma. With his thick, eastern European accent and quick sense of humour, he’s become a sound bite magician.

And while Krejcir has been charged with armed robbery and insurance fraud, authorities have not been able to make anything stick.

The Hawks even spectacularly rammed down his neighbour’s wall in 2011 in a botched attempt to arrest Krejcir, who went into hiding for three days.

At least seven of his associates have been assassinated in underworld-style killings, but he has never faced a charge or been arrested for any of these murders.

This is also despite private investigator Paul O’Sullivan’s best attempts to build a case against him. Krejcir taunted him on one occasion during an arrest by drinking a glass of Guinness in the Czech’s chair at the Harbour.

The SA Revenue Service (Sars) is also still doing a massive investigation into Krejcir’s tax affairs.

With the bodies piling up and police failing to make any significant breakthroughs in any of the cases, Krejcir remains a free man fighting to stay in South Africa as a refugee.

He calls himself Mr Banana Peel because he is invariably linked to every hit that goes down in his ’hood, but his critics say he has bought his innocence with a battery of top lawyers and powerful police officers on his payroll.

Krejcir is adamant he is no mafia boss, but trouble follows him everywhere.

His legend is also exacerbated by yarns of bulletproof glass being installed at his table at the Harbour, Serbian assassins being flown into the country to carry out jobs and his mother arriving with briefcases stuffed with cash to fund his crimes.

Most sensational of all was the bizarre attempt on his life in July this year, when 12 gun barrels popped out of the numberplate of a red VW Polo and opened fire on him by remote control before the car self-detonated.

“All my life is like James Bond stuff, so it’s usual stuff for me. It’s how I live my life,” he said after escaping unharmed.

» Wiener is a reporter for Talk Radio 702’s Eyewitness News

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