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On Tuesday, the eastern Johannesburg suburb of Bedfordview was rocked by a bomb blast. The explosion at Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir’s Money Point gold dealership killed two people, with three critically injured. While investigators searched for a possible second device, we spoke to Gauteng police’s Neville Malila.
Brigadier Neville Malila (Police Spokesman): “At half past five there was a person that walked into the shop and the person indicated that there is an explosive device in the bag that he has. Shortly after that the explosive device detonated.”
Czech fugitive, Jan Charvat, a friend of Krejcir, was killed in the explosion, along with Money Point manager Ronnie Bvuma - also close to Krejcir - who has been interviewed by the police in search of a motive.”
Neville: “There is a team of investigators that’s going to investigate all possibilities.”
There’s no shortage of theories... Paul O’Sullivan says it’s time the law caught up with Radovan.
Paul O’Sullivan (Forensic Investigator): “There’s the theory that Krejcir could be doing this himself; there is another theory that he has really crossed the wrong people in South Africa and they are giving him some of his own treatment.”
He was reportedly hiding at his three-storey mansion in Bedfordview, but was seen later in the week visiting the injured in hospital. It’s brought the body count of Krejcir associates to 12. One of the injured is believed to be an eyewitness in last month’s hit on underworld figure, Sam Issa.
Neville: “We’re looking at possibilities... if all these incidents, that happened lately in Bedfordview, if they are linked.”
“Black Sam” as Issa was known, was killed in a dramatic mob-style hit. Chad Thomas, forensic investigator, knew him well.
Chad Thomas (Forensic Investigator): “He was extremely colourful – he lived the life of an underworld gangster; he used to have Jacuzzi parties; he would party it up until three in the morning with models, etc. And the rumours about him being involved in drugs have gone back a number of years.”
For some weeks, there’d been word on the street that Issa’s number was up - even that he’d almost been abducted from his home two weeks before.
Bongani Bingwa (Carte Blanche presenter): “But as they drove away from his complex, a tyre burst and the kidnappers fled.”
But in the end they got their man. Security specialist Mike Bolhuis believes the murder was drug-related – and linked to Radovan.
Mike Bolhuis (Security Specialist ): “Issa was killed because of a drug deal that went bad between him and Radovan.”
That’s Mike Bolhuis’s view, but others with a foothold in the underworld allege that Issa had been a middleman in smuggling drugs from Brazil.
Mike: “The information we had is that there was money... an amount of 2-million [rand] owed on 10 kilograms of cocaine which wasn’t paid. Radovan owed Issa Bassam – he owed him this money.”
According to Bolhuis, Issa then couldn’t pay his suppliers, and that was the end of him.
Then, two weeks later, an Issa associate, Serbian Veselin Laganin, was murdered at his home in Bedfordview.
Mike: “Word on the street is that he had a loose mouth. As I have said before, these guys get taken out when they either owe money or something goes wrong in the drug trafficking trade, or if the person is an information problem.”
Veselin, who was laid to rest last Saturday, had links to Krejcir. The pair appeared in court last year in connection with an armed robbery. Sources say that Issa had posted their bail. But no one wants to speak too loudly about the relationship between Krejcir and the two murdered men. This man, who wouldn’t appear on camera, said the link was drugs.
‘Sias’ (Krejcir associate): “Veselin and Sam and Radovan are obviously in a business related to obviously drugs, cocaine.”
Veselin was a coke dealer with ties to Darko Saric, allegedly a powerful Serbian drug dealer based in Uruguay. The Serbian press has linked Saric to Krejcir and says he visited him in South Africa this year. Which is why Mike believes Veselin’s murder was not a house robbery.
Mike: “It’s been staged as a robbery in our opinion; there has been a previous robbery in the complex similar to that. So, the police might say: ‘But listen, there’s been a previous robbery similar to that where a man was wounded – also just a few things taken’. But these guys aren’t stupid; they are very intellectual – when they plan a murder it’s done precisely, correctly - that’s why it’s called a hit.”
Krejcir had said he would speak to us to answer the allegations, but he’s been unavailable since the Money Point blast. On Friday morning he released a video statement in which he recorded his version of events.
Over the years, numerous press reports have linked him to the killing of private investigator Kevin Trytsman in 2009 and strip club boss Lolly Jackson (in 2010). He’s always denied them.
[Sep 2010] Radovan Krejcir: “Why would I have something to do with Lolly Jackson’s death. He was my friend, he was my buddy. I met him twice a day – I mean twice a week for the lunch, and I have so many fun and hobbies together with him.”
Then there was German supercar specialist Uwe Gemballa, allegedly suffocated in a house rented by Krejcir’s business manager Ivan Savov. Yet Radovan denies that he lured Gemballa to South Africa to kill him.
Bongani: “One of the allegations is that you [gestures with throat cutting] took care of him?”
Radovan: “If I killed Gemballa, how is it possible that I am sitting here, guys? – you supposed to visit me in Kempton Park police station.”
But there’ve been very few arrests in connection with a string of underworld murders over the last three years; among them, businessman Chris Kouremetis (Oct 2010); Cape Town underworld boss Cyril Beeka (Mar 2011); and two Lolly Jackson associates, Ian Jordaan (Sep 2011) and Mark Andrews (Sep 2011). And then there was gangster-turned-state-witness Leon Davids (Oct 2013) in the Beeka murder case.
Radovan (Prepared Statement 14 Nov 2013): “I want to categorically state that I have had no involvement in any of the killings that the media have been so freely speculating about. I am sure that if there were any evidence of my involvement, the South African Police would have found such evidence by investigation. There is no evidence because I am not involved and have not been involved in any murders of anyone.”
The Hawks’s Paul Ramaloko confirms they don’t have enough evidence to take action against anyone.
Paul Ramaloko (Hawks Spokesman): “There is a lot of rumours surrounding his involvement in all the happenings around Bedfordview, but we want to say that we haven’t got anything in-hand which would give us the strength to take him to court.”
Bongani: “How do you explain that so many people linked [to], or associated with Krejcir have ended up dead?”
Paul: “When people are counting bodies, we are counting facts.”
So far the facts haven’t fingered the kingpins. In the Gemballa case, only the foot soldiers were nabbed.
Mike: “Unless they finger who has paid them and who has given them the command to kill Uwe Gemballa, this means nothing.”
And so the murders of Uwe Gemballa, Cyril Beeka and Lolly Jackson remain unsolved.
Paul Ramaloko: “We have seasoned detectives working around the clock.”
Costa Jackson, Lolly’s brother doesn’t believe him.
Costa Jackson (Lolly’s brother): “Since 2010 a bit of investigating was done, but since then nothing has happened. I hear from nobody, nobody says a thing. The minute something gets found out you hear a bit about it and then it disappears.”
In part this is because George Louka, the alleged triggerman, who might have all the answers, is fighting extradition in Cyprus, allegedly too terrified to return home.
[Recorded in Central Prison Nicosia, June 2012]
George Louka: “You know better than me they will shoot me down. They threaten me – they threaten our families. I’m telling the truth.”
Bongani: “What about an individual like George Louka, who says he won’t come back here because he’s afraid that if he’s in your Witness Protection Program they’ll get to him?”
Paul: “The process of extraditing him is underway; he is playing the delaying tactics.”
As for all the stories about Radovan, he says he’s just a family man trying to make a living.
Radovan (Prepared Statement 14 Nov 2013): “I am very disappointed that the media continuously paint me as the ‘bad guy’ and seem to relish or enjoy painting me as some sort of evil gangster or outright criminal.”
The Hawks seem to agree.
Paul: “One would come and say these are entrepreneurs, who have some differences; who then go out and kill one another.”
Bongani: “These aren’t just entrepreneurs?”
Paul: “To identify, or label individuals as criminals, we must have evidence.”
Mike: “[laughing] Wow, let me react by saying I disagree!”
‘Entrepreneur’ isn’t what most people would call a man wanted in his home country for fraud, counterfeiting money, conspiracy to commit murder and blackmail.
[Carte Blanche, September 2010]
Radovan: “I am not hiding in front of no-one – the name that they are calling me - fugitive - is not actually the right one.”
Radovan joins the ranks of other controversial figures like Mafioso Vito Palazzollo, who lived in South Africa from 1986 to 2012; Gadafi’s banker Bashir Saleh, and convicted Serbian assassin, Dobrosav Gavric.
Radovan holds a temporary refugee permit and has been trying to get political asylum in South Africa since 2007. When asked about Radovan’s status, the Refugee Appeals Board told us asylum applications are confidential.
Radovan says his life is in danger. Apart from the latest hit at Money Point, a car was blown up there.
[24 July 2013]
Radovan: “All my life is like James Bond stuff – so it’s usual stuff for me.”
Others of course say it was nothing more than a flamboyant con.
Mike: “George Louka was on his way back to South Africa. If he waited a couple of weeks he would have seen that the extradition was halted. I don’t believe it a bit.”
Chad Thomas (Forensic Investigator): “I think that was a pyrotechnic joke of note. I don’t think anybody had a serious intention to kill him; I wouldn’t be surprised if he staged it himself.”
Radovan (Prepared Statement 14 Nov 2013): “It is highly irresponsible of the media to speculate, on the one hand that I have any involvement in the incidents in which my own life was, or could have been, at risk.”
But the Hawks aren’t as sceptical.
Paul (Hawks): “We are looking into an attempt into on his life – we don’t want to jump to conclusions.”
Bomb blasts, attempted hits, murders... Is it a turf war or planned criminality? It all paints a picture of organised crime.
Mike: “Organised crime in South Africa is very big – it’s enormous. I’m tempted to say that it is bigger than the police presently –it has escalated to a situation where it is now totally out of control.”