[MY TAKE] Inside Cape Town's extortion trial

Colin Booysen didn’t see his arrest coming. No one did.

While appearing at the Cape Town Regional Court to face charges of extortion along with his three co-accused Nafiz Modack, Ashley Fields and Jacques Cronje this past week, police swooped on Booysen for breaking his bail conditions in a separate murder case.

Booysen and his two bodyguards were arrested following the murder of Adrian Pietersen, who died in a shootout during an argument with Booysen in Belhar in September 2018. The trio were released on bail in the Bellville Magistrates Court, but on Monday they broke those bail conditions when they appeared in the Cape Town Regional Court.

During an adjournment Booysen, through his lawyer Bruce Hendricks, learnt that the anti-gang unit had come for him. There was nothing he could do about it.

Booysen’s arrest by the anti-gang unit took everyone by surprise, including Booysen’s wife and mother. Whispers could be heard from the public gallery where the two women sat, a look of concern etched on their faces as they walked back and forth to the dock where Booysen sat calmly. His arrest was inevitable.

Day three of the extortion trial had been well underway when prosecutor Mervin Meningo was informed about the warrants that were authorised for Booysen and his two private security guards.

Modack, Fields, Cronje and Booysen sat whispering to each other, occasionally shaking their heads, evidence of their dissatisfaction with the presence of the cops.

Armed members of the anti-gang unit stood lined up at the entrance of the courtroom as the media scurried outside, anxiously awaiting the sensational scenes which were about to unfold. But the State, defence and the magistrate all voiced their dissatisfaction at the police’s timing.

Magistrate Byron Pedro was not impressed by the way the police executed the arrest warrant, and promptly summoned police anti-gang unit commander Major General Andre Lincoln into the dock to explain why officers had not waited until the conclusion of court proceedings on the day to carry out the arrests.

“I’ve got no issue if you want to execute a warrant, and don’t want to interfere with your work, but there’s a time and a place. We’ve arranged this trial date months ago and want to make optimal use of our time. There’s nothing prohibiting police from waiting until 4pm, until I’m done,” Pedro scolded Lincoln.

“It was never the intention to execute the warrant during your court time. It was meant to be dealt with after court. It was not my intention and I’ll deal with the matter,” Lincoln responded before he was excused.

Following an adjournment, Booysen was arrested under a heavy police guard.

The State’s first witness Radley Dijkers – who was the brand manager at The Grande Café, situated in the Table Bay Harbour - testified at length over a three-day period about what led to a criminal complaint being levelled against Modack, Booysen (who is the brother of alleged gang kingpin Jerome ‘Donkie’ Booysen), Fields and Cronje. A fifth accused, Carl Lackay was murdered in Goodwood in August.

Modack is believed to have led a group who had forcibly taken over security from a separate faction led by businessman Mark Lifman, and coerced nightclubs and restaurants to pay them. This - according to police – led to violence in 2017.

The four accused face charges of extortion and money laundering. Modack, Booysen and Fields also face a charge of rendering a security service without being a registered provider. Modack faces additional charges of interception of communication and defeating the ends of justice.

They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges brought against them.

Dijkers was the brand manager at The Grande Café. A company called Leisure and Lifestyle had been providing the business with security services. Richard van Zyl was managing the security for the Grande Café at the time. Van Zyl had previously been linked to Lifman and Andre Naude.

Dijkers says they had no problems with the security company which invoiced them monthly for the security they required. He adds they had no problem with the services provided by the company.

This arrangement continued until April 2017. On 2 April 2017, prior to an event at the restaurant, five vehicles pulled up at The Grande Café carrying between 10 and 15 men who were unknown to Dijkers. He said a man approached him and the manager, informing them that they were from a security company called TSG Security.

This followed the arrival of Lackay, who was appointed by this new security firm. Without warning or any agreement, Lackay took over management of security and security payments at The Grande Café.

Dijkers was also informed that TSG Security was run by Colin Booysen. At that point, the witness said he panicked as he heard about security takeovers at restaurants and nightclubs in the City Bowl.

Out of desperation, Dijkers contacted a Hawks official after he could not reach Van Zyl, the manager of the security group they had been using, and informed the businesses’ CEO, whom he says gave him no advice.

Dijkers says he was not left with any other option and allowed Lackay to manage the security. He told the court that the business did not enter into a contract with Lackay, who informed him that the management of TSG would be in contact to discuss the details.

Days later, Lackay arrived at The Grande Café accompanied by a group of men. One of them was Grant Veroni, who was introduced as the owner of TSG Security. They requested that they be paid a month in advance for their security services.

The relationship with the new security firm seemed to be going well for a couple of months, until November 2017. On 3 November, a day before The Grande Café launched its summer operating party, a group of up to 15 men arrived.

One of the security personnel had called Dijkers to introduce him to his boss, Nafiz Modack. Dijkers says Modack asked him if he worked with Andre Naude. He said no, adding that TSG Security had been supplying their security. Dijkers expressed his concern at this stage as Raymond Bloom, the event’s manager, had been called to a table by men ‘who looked like bouncers’. These men were Modack and Jacques Cronje, who spoke to Bloom.

After Modack and Cronje had left, Dijkers says he was informed by the events manager that they demanded R150,000 for extra security costs, which had to be paid the next day. He says he immediately reported this to the CEO and the group operations manager Stuart Bailey.

The following day, as the Grande was preparing for its summer event, Cronje phoned Dijkers who again demanded the money for ‘extra security costs’. A concerned Dijkers explained to Cronje that, as the brand manager, he could not authorise a payment of that nature, and would have to contact the shareholders to do so. Dijkers says security arrangements for the event were made weeks in advance with Lackay, and 15 security guards had been arranged. Security costs had also been settled.

During a conversation with the shareholder, Dijkers says he motivated in favour of paying the requested amount to Modack and Cronje, as he didn’t want any safety problems.

Bailey was sent after Cronje had allegedly given Dijkers until 2pm in the afternoon to confirm if he managed to get the money. He later informed Cronje that he did not get authorisation to pay the money.

The witness had only been authorised to pay R50,000 to ensure that the event on the day went ahead incident free. This apparently didn’t sit well with the accused as they made their way to the Grande to discuss their demands for extra money for security.

Dijkers and Bailey led the men into an office where he claims Booysen informed them that they had to pay the R150,000 as Modack had extra security costs. There was no indication at that stage whether these men were affiliated to TSG Security. In the meeting, Modack allegedly told Dijkers and Bailey that he had to bring in 80 guards for the event later that day.

Modack was not satisfied with the offer at hand, says Dijkers. He wanted no less than R100,000 for security for the day’s event.

Booysen later brought the figure down to R90,000, which had to be produced by midnight on 4 November. Dijkers testified that the money was handed over in cash to Lackay. He says no extra security was, however, provided at the event that evening.

It has also emerged that Dijkers did not file the criminal complaint with police following the incident. Instead, Bailey went to the police.

Dijkers says he feared for his safety after learning about it. He says he told Bailey that going to the police was a ‘terrible mistake’.

Dijkers has been warned of his right to not incriminate himself after he alluded to trying to conceal a crime when he made this statement to Bailey. Dijkers could now potentially face numerous charges, including attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Dijkers told the court he understood the process and opted to continue testifying. He could be granted immunity from prosecution as a Section 204 witness should the magistrate be satisfied that his testimony provided was honest.

Trial proceedings have been postponed to 15 April 2019.

Shamiela Fisher is an Eyewitness News reporter based in Cape Town.