South Africa

Police vs. Krejcir: Could this be the final battle?

By Alex Eliseev 25 November 2013

Hear that? That’s the sound of silence in Bedfordview this morning, as Radovan Krejcir prepares to appear in court. While Krejcir is no stranger to South Africa’s criminal justice system, still, this time it feels different. ALEX ELISEEV thinks this could well be the grand unravelling of the “one-man crime wave” that blew in from the Czech Republic.

Riah Phiyega and her detectives really need a win these days. The Radovan Krejcir problem was becoming untenable and embarrassing and it’s easy to believe reports that our embattled police chief summoned her top team to demand his “head on a plate”. She even assigned the country’s most senior detective to oversee progress.

It must have felt good, then, to call a media briefing and announce that Krejcir had been arrested and would face charges of attempted murder (or assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm) as well as kidnapping.

The fact that Krejcir was arrested on a Friday evening was either a not-so-subtle message to him from those who snapped shut the handcuffs – forcing him to spend a weekend behind bars – or a move out of desperate urgency, given that he was planning to skip the country.

Any policeman will tell you that arresting a suspect after courts close on a Friday is a small perk of the job, especially if the suspect has been openly mocking you and the system you’ve sworn to protect.

Sean Newman, who worked with slain Teazers boss, Lolly Jackson, joked on Twitter that the way they used to get the “King of Teaze” to go home on a Friday afternoon was to remind him that the court was closing.

But Krejcir’s arrest is only the beginning. Now comes the hard part. Police will have to present their investigation to the prosecutors, who in turn will set sail towards a conviction. If they are expecting clear skies and calm waters, they are tragically mistaken.

Krejcir is the grandmaster of using South Africa’s laws to his advantage. In 2007, he was arrested while trying to sneak into the country on a fake passport and under the shadow of an Interpol Red Notice. He hired the best lawyers in the land and walked out into the streets a free man.

Later, he smacked a fraud case against him for four and a robbery charge for six. In the fraud matter he was accused of defrauding a medical aid company while in the robbery case he was arrested for robbing an electronics store in Pretoria.

Krejcir has resources (his mother recently offered R1 million for information on two failed assassination attempts against her son) and therefore, theoretically, the luxury of not having to do any dirty work himself. Just days ago, he painted a picture of himself as a law-abiding family man who loves South Africa and hopes to make it his permanent home. This was happening while his wife and children were allegedly slipping out of the country and fleeing to South America. Krejcir has, of course, denied any wrongdoing and says he is not the evil gangster he’s been made out to be.

Krejcir has also used the law to fend off fresh attempts to extradite him back home, using his never-ending asylum application as a technical hurdle which tripped up the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

His latest arrest raises several very important questions:

  • If Phiyega deployed her very best to investigate Krejcir and the network around him, why has he only been arrested for kidnapping and beating some yet-to-be-named man in June this year?
  • Was this just a way to stop him fleeing South Africa or have the detectives failed to gather enough evidence to charge him with something more substantial?
  • Will further charges be added before the trial or will police settle for convicting him on the charges that exist? (After all, Al Capone went down for tax evasion)
  • If Krejcir is charged with only a single – even if extremely violent – assault, what message will be sent about the police’s ability to build cases against alleged organised crime bosses?
  • Is there truth to reports that the Hawks were caught off guard when a different unit pounced on Krejcir and if so, why was this not better coordinated?
  • Why did Krejcir’s lawyers have to get a high court order to force the police to reveal where the suspect was being held? Regardless of what anyone thinks of Krejcir, he is still entitled to basic human rights enshrined in our constitution.
  • Was Krejcir assaulted in those twilight hours as he claims to have been? He’s gone as far as laying charges against the police, which are now being investigated. This is an old trick, which courts have to deal with on a daily basis. But if he succeeds in proving any assault, it will be a major blow to the police’s case against him. In fact, the police have to make sure that every step they took was within the line because if there is a loophole, Krejcir’s lawyers will sniff it out and push him through it. In fact, their latest court application is to have him moved to a private hospital for treatment, which would make it two high court applications in 48 hours. Krejcir’s lawyers obviously mean business.
  • Why has it taken this long for the police to build any kind of case against a man for whom “every day is a James Bond movie”? Yes, the bigger the fish the more slippery it is, but when a remotely operated car drives into town and sprays deadly shrapnel from a home-made shotgun rig hidden behind its back bumper – it’s too late.
  • And crucially: will those police officers who were in Krejcir’s pocket be arrested and prosecuted? These are not constables with crispy uniforms but senior leaders in organised crime units. The book has to be thrown at them and examples made. At the same time, the search for the rot should continue, because the names which made it into newspapers are surely just the tip of the iceberg.

Even with all of these questions looming large, Krejcir’s latest arrest feels like, sounds like and smells like the beginning of the end. The tax man has frozen his assets; his family has fled yet another country; his pawn shop has literally been blown up; he’s behind bars; and many of his closest allies or lieutenants are dead. At long last, someone turned up the heat so much that Krejcir was planning to run out of the kitchen. Surely this must be a tipping point? The final countdown? The last few minutes (okay, maybe quarter of an hour) of this sensational crime thriller movie.

There are a plenty of loose ends to tie up. The body count is high. The fate of some trials linked to this saga – such as the Uwe Gemballa case – hang in the balance. And a case against Krejcir is a massively complex one to construct, never mind prove. So the message to the police and the prosecutors has to be – and there’s really no other way to say it, given how long Krejcir has made fools of both: Don’t stuff this up. DM

Photo: Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir arrives for his extradition hearing at the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, 29 August 2013. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

 

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