[BOOK EXTRACT] Ministry of Crime: An Underworld Explored by Mandy Wiener
As a follow up to the bestselling 'Killing Kebble: An Underworld Exposed' (2010), the new book from Mandy Wiener, 'Ministry of Crime: An Underworld Explored', examines how organised crime, gangsters and powerful political figures have been able to capture the law enforcement authorities and agencies. These various organisations have been eviscerated, hollowed out and left ineffective. They have been infiltrated and compromised and, as a result, prominent underworld figures have been able to flourish in South Africa, setting up elaborate networks of crime with the assistance of many cops. The criminal justice system has been left exposed and it is crucial that the South African public knows about the capture that has occurred on different levels.
There is no doubt in the mind of Demetris Panayiotou, George Louca’s brother, that Louca was poisoned. Panayiotou flew to South Africa and saw Louca shortly before his death.
‘What I believe; actually, I’m sure, that George is being poisoned,’ he told me on the phone from Cyprus. ‘I don’t know which way they used, but George is being poisoned because he knew so many things about everybody from Radovan, for some police with the high position and they wanted to close his mouth.’
He can’t say for sure who was behind it, but Louca had his own suspicions and agreed that he had been poisoned. ‘I don’t know who poisoned George. If I knew it, I would tell you, but I don’t know who. But I’m sure that people from underworld and some police cooperate together, and they want to get out George as soon as possible. He said to me that the last time I visited him in the prison and we had the conversation. He said to me, “My brother, I’m sure that they poisoned me. They found one way and they poisoned me. It’s not possible,” he said to me, “to get sick so quickly.” And in a few months he was ready to go. I mean this is not possible. He was sure about this. He mentioned to me some people, I don’t want to say the names, but I think slowly slowly, Krejcir is in the prison, I don’t know if he will manage to get out. Everybody in South Africa, they know that somebody else pulled the trigger and it wasn’t my brother. My brother had different cases, dirty cases. I’m not saying he’s innocent, but I’m sure he’s not a killer.’
Panayiotou doesn’t have any hard evidence to back up his claims, but he does have the medical report showing Louca was healthy when he was first put on a plane back to South Africa.
‘The only evidence I’ve got, before George has been extradited to South Africa, he’s been examined everything to see his health how is it, and from the exam we get before he left to South Africa, everything was clear. How come from the time he left from Cyprus a few months he get the lung cancer stage four and he died? Let’s say from the time we discovered that he was suffering from lung cancer after less than a month he passed away.’ He also clears up the rumours that he was phoned and threatened not to do a second autopsy when Louca’s body arrived in Cyprus. He says there were no threats. ‘No, no, no. When the body of my brother arrived to Cyprus, we took him to the hospital of the capital of Cyprus and there, there came some doctors. I explained to them I want to make a second autopsy to his body, and they explained to me that if they are going to do so it’s really difficult to discover anything because from the time they took with some pipes all the blood out his body and they put some medicine just to travel from South Africa to Cyprus. This was the reason that I changed the mind. Nobody called me or threatened me or something.’
Panayiotou is emotional about how Louca was left to die in prison in a land far away from home. He has some poignant final thoughts about South Africa’s justice system and how not everyone is equal before the law. ‘We are very sad. We was expecting the South African authorities and the South African prosecutors, I had the meeting with them before George passed away and they promised to me that George would be released to his home to die. And also, I gave them a letter, evidence from Cyprus that he would be hospitalised, and also I provided them a ticket with Emirates as a sick passenger and everything. But from one minute to another minute they changed their minds. They knew it that George would pass away, he had only a few weeks life left.
‘I used to live in South Africa. I think and I believe that if someone commit a crime, they have to face the law. I’m not against this. But I believe that in South Africa the corruption is so big, no human rights, no nothing. If you have money you can do whatever you want. If you don’t, you die. Simple as that. Policemen, prosecutors, judges, everybody, they get involved with underworld. This I saw with my eyes, and I’m very disappointed. They let one guy die like a dog in a cell. They knew that George would pass away. They knew everything from the beginning. Just they give us problems and problems and problems. I think above is a God. Everybody we are going to see the God and we will let the God judge us.’
Stubbing out a Chesterfield at the News Café, PW van Heerden is adamant that he has not changed his mind about what happened in that house in Edleen in 2010, despite Louca’s story. ‘To this day, I believe George was the shooter. DNA on the firearm, the magazine of the firearm, George and Lolly – a mixture of their DNA on the magazine. On one of the spent cartridges found on the scene, George’s DNA, so he handled that firearm at some stage. Cellphone records – he says Krejcir was there – don’t show that Krejcir was there. I know he said to me and he also stated in the affidavit that Krejcir left his cellphone at the restaurant. If you look at the gap in the cellphone records between calls and you take the five or ten seconds that could be voicemail kind of stuff, there wasn’t enough time at that time of the day for Krejcir unless he was doing low flying with a blue light to make it to the scene and back in that time. It would’ve left him with 20 minutes to move from the Harbour to Edleen and still become involved with an argument and do the shooting and threaten George to move the body; time didn’t allow it. We tried our best to follow up.
‘If I’d been able to speak to George earlier in Cyprus and hadn’t been held back by various things, I might have had that version earlier and been able to follow up on it. By the time George got back and he provided his version – because we looked at the cellphone records from the beginning – we tried to get hold of Metrovich, who allegedly held the phones for Krejcir, but by then Metrovich was in prison in Ireland for assault. Also my dear friends at Interpol were requested to establish if we could go and speak to Metrovich and by the time they eventually woke up and replied to me – something like a year and a half later, sending them regular reminders – Metrovich had been released from custody in Ireland, hopped on a plane to Spain and disappeared into the European Union.
‘Beeka was dead by that stage. All that we were left with out of those guys, except for Krejcir himself, were Arsiotis and Metrovich. Michael Arsiotis disappeared to Australia and was arrested there. We went to go see him – the Aussies arranged it. Arsiotis was willing to see us; as we got off the plane, they said to us that he is now refusing to speak to us. So we never met him. We hung around for a couple of days while they were trying to arrange with his lawyer. We went with to a police station, waiting for him to report. We sat in an office just slightly off from the entrance; they had a chat to him and we could hear him adamantly refusing to speak to us. We were on foreign soil so we couldn’t abuse our hosts.’
Van Heerden isn’t entirely clear about what Louca’s motive was or if he was acting on someone else’s behalf. It remains a mystery. ‘I don’t know, there are a lot of theories that I have. It is possible that George was set up by somebody to kill Lolly or it is a question of they had a meeting about the money flow and it got heated and it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. There are a lot of possibilities. I can’t say that there was a specific motive.’
He downplays my suggestion that Krejcir could have paid off cops – himself included – to make the case wither away. ‘It came to light that he did have cops on the payroll, on a lower level, that we could confirm.
Higher up the evidence wasn’t … there were stories …
‘Joey Mabasa’s version on that, I cannot dispute his version in the sense that he never received money. There is no evidence pointing to the fact that he did. That he was in an inappropriate relationship with Krejcir, ja. That’s why I steer away from relationships.
‘I cannot get into a cosy relationship with a criminal; it just goes against my grain. There is nothing pointing to Joey receiving money, but that the relationship was inappropriate, according to me. They saw a bit much of one another, but what results did it deliver?’
No one will be held accountable for Lolly Jackson’s death. Either the man responsible is dead or the main witness against the accused is gone forever. His deathbed testimony in court will not be enough to convict Krejcir, particularly if there is no political will to bring him to justice for the crime. There will be a formal inquest, when Van Heerden gets round to scheduling it.
‘It has to go for an inquest. I’m just tied up with this other thing, but if I can just get the time. I have to gather the outstanding couple of things and hand it back to DPP [the director of public prosecutions] and they refer it to the magistrate’s court for an inquest. Whether it be an informal one or a formal one. At this stage I assume it will be an informal one.’
Van Heerden admits that there is an inkling in him, a belief that Krejcir could have played a role somehow.
‘There was a guy from the Harbour. He stated that Ivan Savov had left the gun for George to collect and George collected the firearm from him. Savov gave him this thing in a rag before the murder and George later came to collect it. This guy felt – it was a packet or a rag – something and he looked and realised he had touched the thing and, according to him, he then cleaned it with spirits. George then came and collected it and later he heard about the murder. This guy’s timelines didn’t fit in with George’s movements. There are many possibilities. Krejcir could’ve been behind it; he could’ve put George up to do it. I still believe that somewhere Krejcir played a role.’
For now, it remains a mystery.
Ministry of Crime: An Underworld Explored by Mandy Wiener is published by Pan Macmillan South Africa.