A specialist task team of investigators from the Hawks, the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the Reserve Bank have started questioning key players in the multi-million rand Mount Richmore development on the KwaZulu-Natal’s north Coast, following the sinister attack on top advocate Jaap Cilliers outside the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria last week. Cilliers, his legal team and people questioned by the task team were warned to keep a low profile because their lives may be in danger. At the centre of the investigation is an underworld tycoon, Frikkie Lutzkie, who is locked in bitter court battles with three Gauteng businessmen. By DE WET POTGIETER.
The piece of land that sparked the animosity is 188 hectares of prime development opportunity, which was bought by Lutzkie at a controversial auction for a mere R50 million while it was expected to reach a price in excess of R200 million. The Mount Richmore development, close to Salt Rock, is now valued at an estimated R600 million.
Numerous high court cases and urgent interdicts have clouded the development since 2007, and the deals made are shrouded in allegations of bribery, corruption and double deals. Two attorneys are also implicated in the saga.
The events surrounding the case itself read like a thriller, with dirty tricks, bizarre assassination bids and a police unit-for-hire in an early morning raid on three upmarket Johannesburg houses.
The three businessmen, At Shepherd, Ken Stricker and Dave Smith, took Lutzkie to court in 2011, claiming they were sucker-punched in the Kwazulu-Natal property development deal. Lutzkie, a well-known boxer and cage fighter, brought the multi-million rand civil claim against Shepherd in a tit-for-tat lawsuit that has been in progress for the past two years.
In July 2010, the three businessmen were shocked when 25 heavily armed police raided their upmarket houses in the early hours of the morning, before handcuffing them and bundling them into police cells.
Members of the police’s crack intervention unit arrested them and transported them all the way to Middelburg in Mpumalanga. Interestingly, a police reservist and associate of Lutzkie was in charge of the operation.
When the court case was to be postponed until the next day for a formal bail application, Smith, one of the businessmen, told the magistrate that Lutzkie had phoned him and threatened to have him held overnight in a general population cell. Smith pleaded with the magistrate for the three to be held separately and thus avoid Lutzkie’s alleged plan to have them gang-raped.
Two days after the three were released on bail, Lutzkie survived an alleged attempt on his life in Middelburg, when three men attacked him in his bakkie and fired 27 times at him with an R5 assault rifle. He miraculously escaped almost unscathed.
Shortly afterwards, the three businessmen received a call from their legal team, instructing them to return to Middelburg for their bail to be revoked because the prosecutor feared they had orchestrated the attack.
It later turned out that Lutzkie was alive and well and had told the local newspaper about his “dramatic escape” by shooting one of his attackers in the face. “I saw his face explode,” was how he described his ordeal. Nobody has been caught to date and this incident also forms part of the task team’s current investigation.
As the three men were acquitted on all the charges, they issued summonses for civil claims amounting to R60 million against Lutzkie, a private investigator and police reservist in the town, and a Randburg attorney.
In a surprise move, Lutzkie conceded last year under cross-examination in the Durban High Court that he had paid R12 million for his “police investigation”. Concerned for her own safety, a female member of the legal team, Advocate Yolande de Klerk, wanted to know from Lutzkie whether he was serious when telling her out of court that she would be struck down dead.
“Mr. Lutzkie, I presume you were not serious when you said that if I asked you a nasty question, I will be struck down dead,” De Klerk wanted to know from Lutzkie during cross-examination.
“No it was a joke,” was his response.
No stranger to controversy, Lutzkie was yet again embroiled in a strange incident when the notorious West Rand gangster Ralph Haynes mysteriously disappeared in January 2011. He was last seen alive boarding Lutzkie’s helicopter at a small airstrip outside Pretoria.
Haynes was the last member of a gang run by jailed Apartheid hit man Ferdi Barnard, who was also the assassin of Wits academic Dr. David Webster. The gang was known in former years for ruling Johannesburg, particularly Hillbrow. The former death row inmate was also a bodyguard for Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr and friends with Springbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen and his former wife, Amor Vittone.
Dawie Lotter, who accompanied Haynes to the Kitty Hawk airport, told police they were only there to pick up R400,000 when the helicopter whisked his long-time friend away. Lutzkie says adamantly: “I didn’t kill Ralph Haynes.”
He says he has witnesses who saw Haynes driving away from his home in Middelburg in the Ford Bantam bakkie lent to him.
The bakkie was later found abandoned with windows broken on the road between Bronkhorstspruit and Kempton Park, but Haynes has since disappeared without a trace.
While Lutzkie confirmed that he gave Haynes money because he claimed he knew the identity of the three shooters trying to assassinate him in Middelburg, he denied giving him another R500,000 just before Christmas 2010. “Zunaid Moti gave him that money,” he said.
Moti, the flamboyant businessman known for his fast cars and property deals, denied giving Haynes the half million rand. “Ralph still owes me money for the BMW 6 Series car and the Nissan Murano he bought from me,” he said. Moti added that the only business deal he had with Lutzkie was selling him the helicopter he was flying.
The critical question is whether Lutzkie helped Haynes disappear, or took revenge for a double cross.
Cilliers, who was released from hospital, made a statement about the attack on him this week, but Daily Maverick has learned reliably that no official criminal charges were laid. It’s believed that Cilliers will lay charges at a strategic point when the investigating team has concluded its work and is ready to pounce on the suspect.
Warned by the Hawks that their lives may be in danger, the legal team had closed ranks and was not available for comment.
Cilliers, the man who defended notorious people like “Dr Death”, Wouter Basson, Jackie Selebi and the Waterkloof Four, was on the day of his attack appearing in court on the behalf of the defendant, At Shepherd. He was walking with his legal team from the court building to the advocates’ chambers in Vermeulen Street when a young white man in a baseball cap came running from behind.
According to Cilliers, he felt a sharp pain in his buttocks and, a few steps further on, started feeling dizzy and nauseous. He was immediately taken to the Heart Hospital in Sunnyside, where doctors conducted blood tests on him in the intensive care unit.
The blood tests were inconclusive, but a source close to Cilliers claimed that he might have escaped death only because it was unlikely that the assailant actually managed to inject him. It is believed that he was in such a hurry that he merely pricked him. DM
Photo: Frikkie Lutzkie
"Go down this set of stairs and then just run - run as fast as you can." ~ Lt David Brink, 9/11