Rivonia shooting latest in string of Serbian hits

Police investigate a shooting incident. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)
Police investigate a shooting incident. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

Police have confirmed that a man shot in an apparent attempted hit in Rivonia this week was a Serbian national.

The 49-year-old man was wounded in a drive-by shooting near a Sasol petrol station. He was shot twice in the arm and taken to hospital.

This is the latest in a series of shootings in Johannesburg over the past few months, believed to be linked to Serbian organised crime.

READ: Charred assault rifle found after murder of another Serbian man in Joburg

Sandton police say the case is under investigation.

SAPS spokesperson Granville Meyer says no arrests have been made. The identity of the victim is not known at this stage.

Latest shooting

Several sources have told News24 that this latest shooting is linked to a hit last month in Bedfordview on businessman George Mihaljevic.

REVEALED: Murders expose links of Serbian warlord's assassins in SA

Mihaljevic was gunned down in his Porsche Panamera on Heritage Day. He was driving along Van Buuren Road when two men on motorbikes opened fire on him.

Mihaljevic, who grew up in South Africa and was known as "Hollywood George", was of Montenegrin descent and had links to the underworld in SA.

He had done business with Czech convict Radovan Krejcir and was friendly with Chris "Mr Big" Couremetis, who was gunned down at a wedding in Muldersdrift in 2012.

For a detailed breakdown on what has been happening in the underworld nightclub security takeover, see News24's showcase Underworld Unmasked.

Mihaljevic previously owned the Sandton Gold and Diamond Exchange on Sandton Drive.

In September last year, a man of Serbian descent was shot while sitting in his car at the KFC near Bedford Centre at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning.

He had an old Yugoslavian passport on him. He was rushed to Edenvale Hospital and survived the shooting. Sources say the incident was linked to a drug deal gone wrong.

In April this year, Milan "Miki" Duricic was shot dead at a traffic light in Strijdom Park in Johannesburg.

Hiding in South Africa

Duricic was stopped at a red traffic light at the corner of Fabriek and Gerhardus streets in Strijdom Park when he was shot several times.

His body was found slumped over the steering wheel. He was wanted in his home country for the killing of Serbian warlord Zeljko "Arkan" Razatovic in 2000. It's thought he had been hiding in South Africa for years.

Duricic was convicted and sentenced in his home country for participating in the murder.

So was "Arkan Killer" Dobrosav Gavric, who has been held in prison in Cape Town since 2010, when he was arrested following the shooting of underworld figure Cyril Beeka. Gavric, who used the pseudonym Sasa Kovacevic, was driving Beeka when he was killed.

In July, also in Randburg, another Serbian with links to organised crime was killed.

Alleged mobster Darko Kulic was killed while driving in a BMW X5 with his wife Gordana Markovic and an elderly man.

According to eyewitnesses, gunmen used a Mercedes-Benz to force the BMW to a stop while driving along President Fouche Drive.

The hitmen opened fire, killing Kulic. A burnt-out vehicle, believed to be the Mercedes-Benz used in the attack, was found nearby by security guards.

Kulic fought in the Serbian Guard, a paramilitary group, during the civil war in Yugoslavia. He had also served 12 years in prison for the murder of a rival mobster before coming to South Africa. Kulic was Mihaljevic's close friend.

'Hit list'

Also this year, in May, George Darmanovic was killed in a hit in New Belgrade in Serbia. Darmanovic was a contract agent for the State Security Agency (SSA) and was a key player in the South African underworld. He was shot dead while waiting to meet a source.

It's believed Darmanovic knew and had links to Kulic, Duricic and Mihaljevic.

Police sources say they believe all the shootings must be linked and all the dockets are being centralised for investigation. Suggestions are that they are revenge killings as part of a "hit list".

Organised crime investigator Chad Thomas, from IRS Forensic Investigations, believes that South Africa is being used as a proxy battleground for warring Eastern European crime syndicates.

"It is my opinion that international organised crime groups are fighting for turf and international drug routes," Thomas says.

"It is a well-known fact that South Africa is a trans-shipment point for the international movement of drugs.

"If there isn't a breakthrough in the ongoing murder investigations, we can only expect an escalation in violence between warring groups and continued revenge killings. It [has] become a tragic vicious circle of hits."

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