'Not as strong as we're supposed to be': Why wanted criminals flock to SA, according to an expert

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The scene of a multiple murder in Constantia, Cape Town, on Thursday.
The scene of a multiple murder in Constantia, Cape Town, on Thursday.
Gallo Images/Brenton Geach
  • Crime expert Willem Els says South Africa's failure to enforce the rule of law invites wanted criminals to seek refuge in the country.
  • Els was responding to the discovery of wanted Bulgarian criminal Krasimir Nikolaev Kamenov.
  • Kamenov was killed in Constantia, Cape Town on Wednesday.

Corruption, a failure to enforce the rule of law and weakening leadership are among the reasons transnational criminals seek refuge in South Africa, according to an expert.

Willem Els, a senior training coordinator at the Transnational Threats and International Crimes Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, told News24 that South Africa was increasingly spiralling into lawlessness because of a lack of political will to enforce the rule of law.

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"We have a lot of legislations and laws, but we don't seem to have the capacity to enforce those laws anymore. Corruption is also a reason why international criminals come to South Africa because they don't fear extradition or getting caught. Our law enforcement is not what it's supposed to be anymore. The criminals see these loopholes and come to South Africa," he said.

Wanted criminal and Bulgarian national Krasimir Nikolaev Kamenov was killed in Evergreen Lane, Constantia, on Thursday. 

Police said he was shot dead along with two females and one male. The motive of the murder is under police investigation.

Interpol in Bulgaria issued a red notice for Kamenov.

According to Els, a red notice is an international alert issued by Interpol to law enforcement globally to locate and arrest wanted criminals, pending extradition.

READ | Rwanda's most wanted genocide fugitive arrested in SA after three decades on the run

Kamenov faced charges of murder threat, extortion and murder. 

Krasimir Nikolaev Kamenov, who was wanted by Inter
Krasimir Nikolaev Kamenov, who was wanted by Interpol, was killed in Cape Town.

Bulgarian National TV reported that Kamenov was accused of killing a police officer and that he was implicated in a plot to discredit senior magistrates, including prosecutor General Ivan Geshev.

The effectiveness of a red notice depends on the response from authorities in countries that have the alert, according to Els.

He said South African authorities dropped the ball when it came to apprehending wanted criminals and Kamenov could have continued living in South Africa undetected had it not been for his death.

He said:

Every red notice gets distributed. Interpol SA has no excuse to say they didn't know because they did. There lies our challenge. If we have a weak Interpol, communication with local police does not exist. You are only as good as your local actor, and in SA, we are not as strong as we're supposed to be.

The discovery of Kamenov comes hours after local authorities arrested wanted Rwandan fugitive Fulgence Kayishema in Paarl in the Western Cape on Wednesday. 

The South African Operational Task Team, comprising Crime Intelligence, the National Prosecuting Authority and government departments, including the home affairs and justice departments, arrested Kayishema. 

The authorities have been searching for him since 2002 in connection with the Rwandan genocide in 1994. 

Els said Kayishema and Kamenov were among several wanted criminals who evaded the law in SA, often with the help of authorities. 

"Criminals are opportunists, and they exploit the weakest link. These [incidents] demonstrate that our systems are weak, and these guys can thrive here," he said. 

On Wednesday, Interpol extradited a 42-year-old Irish fugitive to her home country to face double murder charges. 

Ruth Sharon Lawrence was arrested in October 2022 in connection with the 2014 murder of two people in her home country. 

She had fled led Ireland with her ex-fiancé shortly after her friends, Eoin O'Connor and Anthony Keegan, were found murdered.

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