The ugly saga of Radovan Krejcir: Zambian connection

The battle to get Czech fugitive and alleged crime boss Radovan Krejcir out of South Africa is heating up.

Last week the South Gauteng High Court (South Africa) overturned a 2008 decision by Kempton Park magistrate Stephen Holzen, who had refused to extradite Krejcir to the Czech Republic, where he has been convicted of fraud and kidnapping and faces other charges.

The court said Holzen should have recused himself from the extradition hearing. The magistrate appeared to have prejudged the matter during a 2007 bail hearing, when he called the state’s case “certainly questionable”.

At the extradition hearing Holzen accepted Krejcir’s claim that there was a conspiracy against him in the Czech Republic, flowing from Krejcir’s allegations that he had funded the election campaign of former prime minister Stanislav Gross.

Now the high court has ordered the extradition application to be reheard.

Deep pockets
But Krejcir is unlikely to be easily dislodged. The Czech has deep pockets — one law enforcement officer says he brought “really big money” into the country — though the origin of his fortune, believed to run into hundreds of millions of rands, remains obscure.

The Mail & Guardian attempted to check whether this money had been declared to the South African Reserve Bank, but the bank cited secrecy provisions. Nevertheless, Krejcir has used the cash to surround himself with an army of lawyers, minders and fixers.

That investment paid off last month when Krejcir was “tipped off” about confidential plans by the Hawks to arrest him on charges of having fraudulently obtained his temporary permit as an “asylum-seeker”.

Krejcir’s lawyers, including prominent attorney Ian Small-Smith and immigration specialist Chris Watters, rushed an application to the high court to interdict any such move.

Krejcir claimed that on August 10 he was phoned by a man with an Afrikaans accent and warned that a senior home affairs official had sworn an affidavit that would be used to arrest Krejcir and deport him.

Curiously, the state attorney’s office agreed to a court order preventing further proceedings against Krejcir in relation to his allegedly unlawful presence in South Africa.

The interdict remains in force pending Krejcir’s asylum appeal to the Refugee Appeal Board, due to be heard in November.

Not the devil
In recent weeks Krejcir has run a media campaign to get his “side of the story” told. Interviews were headlined: “Krejcir: I am no angel. But I’m not the devil” and “Krejcir scoffs at ‘Mafia boss’ claims”.

He also offered the M&G an interview but failed to answer detailed written questions, despite an undertaking delivered through his associate, Jerome Safi.

Krejcir and Safi both told the media about receiving frequent phone calls from George Smith, also known as Louka, the man sought by police in connection with the killing of strip-club owner Lolly Jackson.

Smith, who they say is hiding in Cyprus, disappeared after allegedly calling Gauteng crime intelligence boss Joey Mabasa and confessing to the killing.

Notwithstanding Krejcir’s protestations of innocence, the list of dead or missing people who have been somehow associated with him is growing.

Krejcir’s father
Lambert Krejcir, owner of a printing business, was abducted in 2002 while his son Radovan was in Czech detention.

Krejcir claims his father was killed by state agents trying to force him to hand over documents incriminating prime minister Gross.

But in 2006 Czech police arrested local football boss Jaroslav Starka and some of his business partners for the killing. Police suspected that Starka and his associates kidnapped Lambert to force his son to pay debts owed to them, but that the elder Krejcir may have suffered a heart attack.

Starka, himself linked to Czech organised-crime figures, including Frantisek Mrazek, was released on bail and the case remains open.

Mrazek was murdered in a professional “hit” in January 2006, for which one Czech publication pointed fingers at Krejcir, saying he blamed Mrazek for his father’s death. Krejcir has dismissed any connection to the killing.

The Lolly connection
Allegations in an affidavit suggest Jackson was externalising millions of rands in undeclared cash using the Laiki bank of Cyprus and its representative in South Africa, Alekos Panayi.

Panayi would apparently find locals with money offshore that they wanted to “surface” in South Africa and would arrange a cash swap with Jackson. Panayi says he was introduced to Krejcir by George Smith, who got to know Krejcir when they shared a cell after Krejcir was arrested on an Interpol notice when entering South Africa in 2007.

Krejcir and Jackson did a R1-million deal using Smith as an intermediary, as Krejcir could not transact in his own name. When Krejcir withheld part-payment, Jackson is said to have blamed Panayi and threatened him.

In December 2009 Panayi spilled the beans to the authorities about Jackson and Krejcir’s alleged money laundering, but before the investigation got very far, Jackson was shot dead, allegedly by Smith.

Smith disappeared, but is alleged to be in Cyprus, from where he supposedly calls Krejcir regularly. Krejcir told Beeld that Czech intelligence had tried to bribe Smith to implicate Krejcir in Jackson’s murder.

Cars and cash
Uwe Gemballa, a German, carried out performance upgrades of Porsche and Ferrari cars for the super-rich. He went missing after arriving at OR Tambo airport on February 8 this year.

A former business associate of Krejcir, Juan Meyer, claims that Krejcir told him he was using cars imported with the assistance of Gemballa to smuggle cash into South Africa.

But, claims Meyer, when a Porsche was imported in September last year, the cash was missing. Meyer claims he overheard an angry phone exchange between Krejcir and Gemballa about the money.

Krejcir has dismissed Meyer as a nut and denies any connection with Gemballa’s disappearance. He told M-Net’s Carte Blanche: “I never see … Uwe Gemballa.”

However, Krejcir’s associate Safi confirms that he, Safi, was in contact with Gemballa about setting up a franchise of the Gemballa sports car business in South Africa.

Safi said that another Krejcir associate, security consultant Cyril Beeka, was also set to be involved in the project, which Krejcir was to finance, but that Gemballa never made ­contact with them after his arrival in South Africa.

The M&G has seen copies of correspondence with Gemballa from a “Jerome Saphire” about setting up such a franchise. Krejcir did not respond to questions about whether Gemballa was aware of his connection with Saphire. Beeka declined to respond to questions.

Underworld
Krejcir appears to have inserted himself in the local underworld. He claims that people are simply drawn to his money.

Smith, apparently a Cypriot national whose South African citizenship bears scrutiny, helped Krejcir establish himself in Bedfordview, where he bought a R20-million mansion, using Smith as a front to transfer some of the money through Panayi, a self-confessed money-launderer.

In Bedfordview Krejcir also befriended Jackson, who shared his obsession with fast cars, and was considering buying Jackson’s Teazers empire. He allegedly held several meetings with Jackson’s arch-rival, Andrew Phillips, another strip merchant.

Krejcir was also, according to Meyer and other sources, going into commodity trading with Beeka.

Beeka, a former ANC intelligence operative, is a long-time security consultant to the RAM courier group, which specialises in delivering high-value packages, such as diamonds. Beeka declined to comment on his relationship with Krejcir.

Krejcir was taken on as a client by Small-Smith, who also represented members of the “bouncer gang” implicated in Brett Kebble’s murder.

After the Jackson shooting, Krejcir claimed he had ended his relationship with Smith because of the ­latter’s alcohol and drug abuse.

But Krejcir revealed to Carte Blanche that he was at the Harbour Café in Bedfordview when Smith came in and confessed to killing Jackson.

No one took him seriously, Krejcir claims, and Smith left when he could not find Mabasa, the Gauteng crime intelligence chief who had once been his handler.

Krejcir and the cop
But Krejcir also established a connection with Mabasa, saying his attorney, Small-Smith, had introduced him to the policeman when Krejcir feared being kidnapped.

However, the M&G established that the wives of Krejcir and Mabasa had registered a company together.

Mabasa claimed he was initially unaware of this and that he and his wife were separated, a claim not supported by circumstantial evidence. Krejcir claims the link with Mabasa’s wife was innocent and the company never traded.

Meyer has alleged that he was present on two occasions when Mabasa was given bags that he, Meyer, believed contained cash. Krejcir has denied this, claiming that Meyer never attended any meeting with Mabasa.

The mysterious Mr Meyer
Juan Meyer’s story is remarkable and details are set out in an affidavit ­provided to the M&G.

Meyer, who owns the Pan African Refineries plant near Krugersdorp, shot to public notice when he was arrested in Sandton in May during the transportation of R20-million in gold, due for shipment to Hong Kong.

In court, Meyer, apparently a former member of the security police, claimed he had a licence to trade in gold and his arrest was harassment and linked to his fallout with Krejcir.

He is out on R100 000 bail and the case has been postponed until October. But the M&G understands that the arrest was a high-level operation involving both the police and the South African Revenue Service.

Meyer is in dispute with the Sars over R32-million in VAT claims. It appears that Sars, in turn, is pursuing an investigation of alleged VAT fraud and gold smuggling.

Meyer’s arrest apparently prompted him to seek the assistance of private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, to whom he supplied an affidavit setting out his involvement with Krejcir.

Meyer says he was introduced to Krejcir by George Mihaljevic, of the Sandton Gold and Diamond Exchange, as a potential investor in his refinery business.

Meyer says Krejcir introduced Beeka to the mix, who took them to an investment company called ­Continental Integrated Services, run by Hershel Maasdorp.

Maasdorp, who says Beeka was “a colleague” and his former karate instructor, confirms the meetings with Krejcir and Meyer, but claims he was involved only peripherally. Maasdorp claims the financial figures presented by Meyer for his refinery were “too good to be true”, leading him to suspect that the smuggling of gold dust was involved.

Maasdorp’s former partner, Luke Kirsten, says he was never given enough information to perform a proper due diligence, but did not like what he was being dragged into. He said the proposed deal led to his breaking ties with Maasdorp.

According to Meyer, what was being proposed was the use of the gold refinery and the licence to trade gold across borders as a “front” for money-laundering.

Neither Krejcir nor Beeka have responded to this allegation. Maasdorp says he “never got any sense” that the proposal was a ­laundering scheme.

The deal fell through when Meyer’s Swiss banker refused to continue dealing with Meyer if he was involved with Krejcir.

Meyer also alleges he was present during at least one meeting, in about May last year, involving Krejcir and convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti. Says Meyer: “Present at the meeting were Cyril Beeka, Radovan, Glenn and his lawyer, Seef Botha … There was about 50kg of gold in Zambia and Radovan would finance the purchase of the gold, and I was needed to assist Seef to put the necessary papers together.”

Krejcir failed to respond to a question about his relationship with Agliotti, but another state security source confirmed that the two men were in contact.

Botha denied ever meeting Krejcir or Beeka, but did confirm another meeting where Meyer was briefly present.

He also confirmed that a gold trading company was to have been set up, called United Minerals and Energy (UME), involving Agliotti and businessmen Tom and Johann Marx.

Botha said he travelled to Zambia and Kenya to register the company and that they concluded a refining agreement with the Al Ghurair refinery in Dubai.

Agliotti was to have brought in investors, but never came up with the money, says Botha, adding that the “whole thing died a quiet death” in about November last year.

The M&G has established that an associate of Agliotti, Jacques Nel, appears to have described himself in his internet profile as a director of UME.

In December 2009 UME’s Zambian associate, Dan Pule, accused some Zambian associates of swindling UME out of a deposit of $42 000 by supplying fake gemstones.

According to the Zambian Post, one of those accused in turn claimed that Pule had assisted them to bring gold into the country through the Chirundu border with Zimbabwe.

This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest. www.amabhungane.co.za.

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