Booze, gangsters and an infiltrated wedding - Palazzolo probe 'rumours'

2017-03-14 17:18
Major-General Andre Lincoln (File, Supplied)

Major-General Andre Lincoln (File, Supplied)

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Cape Town - An intelligence operative hand-picked by former president Nelson Mandela to head up an elite investigative unit says a smear campaign against him included rumours about him getting drunk and smashing bottles against walls in posh clubs.

This in the presence of some of Cape Town's most notorious underworld kingpins, including Cyril Beeka and Yuri "the Russian" Ulianitski, both of whom have since been murdered.

"I was dealing with a bunch of people who were seasoned gangsters," Major-General Andre Lincoln testified in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

He said others said to be friends of his, but who were actually under investigation, included former gang boss Rashied Staggie and controversial Moroccan bouncer Hussein ait Taleb.

Lincoln denied he had drunkenly smashed bottles against walls, allegations made by a former colleague, saying no club would have tolerated such behaviour.

In 1996 Mandela tasked Lincoln with heading up a presidential investigative task unit to investigate Cape Town-based Italian mafioso Vito Palazzolo.

Lincoln was tasked with, among other matters, investigating Palazzolo's links to government officials, police officers and businessmen.

But he was instead arrested on an array of charges linked to Palazzolo.

He was later acquitted on the charges.

Allegations discussed with Mbeki

Lincoln is now claiming R15m in damages from the minister of safety and security (now the minister of police) for what he has termed his malicious prosecution.

In court on Tuesday it emerged that another former member of the presidential task unit, Abraham Smith, had written a letter detailing a range of allegations against Lincoln.

The claims made by Smith against Lincoln were so serious that they formed the subject of a meeting at then deputy president Thabo Mbeki's residence in 1997.

In court on Tuesday Lincoln heard that Smith, in the letter, alleged that he had been friends with high-flying gangsters in Cape Town, acting out in clubs at Palazzolo's expense.

But Lincoln denied this.

"The Italian syndicate in Cape Town operates very differently to John Gotti in the US."

Lincoln said it was not as bold and flamboyant, and did not involve bakeries and pizzerias.

Instead the Italian syndicate in Cape Town was more low key.

He testified that Palazzolo's sole role was "the generation of funds and finances".


Lincoln heard that Smith had alleged that members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) had recorded all guests at one of Palazzolo's sons' weddings in 1996 at Palazzolo's Franschhoek farm.

"The presidential investigative task unit would never use NIA. Military intelligence conducted surveillance of Palazzolo's son's wedding," Lincoln, said.

He did, however, add that he had discussed the investigations he was working on with Ricky Nkondo of the NIA as he knew him well.

Lincoln testified that Smith's allegations against him, which he only recently read when preparing for the trial before the court, were effectively a form of sabotage.

"It's very clear that Mr Smith maliciously went out of his way [to attack] my personal character," he said.

The case continues on Wednesday.

Read more on:    vito palazzolo  |  cape town  |  crime

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