South Africa


Clampdown upends underworld: Three suspects arrested in connection with a global steroid smuggler’s murder

Mark Lifman is loaded into a police van follwing his arrest in Cape Town. Picture Captain Piet Smit, SA Police Service, 7 February 2018. Image supplied.

In August 2017 Brian Wainstein, also known as the Steroid King, was assassinated in his Constantia home in Cape Town. His killing led to four arrests and the surfacing of a series of claims about underworld dealings. Now, as part of an apparent ongoing underworld clampdown, three more men have been detained in connection with the murder, undoubtedly dislodging more claims.

During the early hours of 18 August 2017 a gunman fired five bullets into Brian Wainstein who was asleep in his bed in his Constantia home along with his girlfriend and child, who were unharmed during his assassination.

Wainstein, who was originally from Ireland, had been linked to several figures with suspected ties to Cape Town’s underworld, so his murder stirred up tensions in these circles.

He had a history of confirmed and alleged crime – in 2007 The Irish Times reported that he had illegally distributed bodybuilding steroids worldwide from Dublin and was sentenced to four months in jail.

At the time of his assassination, Wainstein was wanted in the US on drug and steroid related charges.

Between late 2017 and early 2018, four men were arrested on charges relating to his murder.

On Tuesday, December 23 2020, the Hawks detained three more men – Mark Lifman, Jerome “Donkie” Booysen and William Stevens – in connection with the killing.

These arrests are the latest in an apparent series of targeted clampdowns on alleged underworld dealings. The police ministry says more such action is expected.

Lifman and Booysen have been connected to Cape Town’s lucrative private security industry.

For decades this industry has seemingly been the centre of a tug-of-war between figures wanting to dominate it and has repeatedly seen claims being made against cops.

In late 2015 Lifman, along with an associate from Cape Town, Andre Naude, were acquitted of more than 300 charges relating to them having allegedly run a private security company, Specialised Protection Services, without it being registered, as is required by law. 

They believed the State had an ulterior motive in driving this case against them.

Specialised Protection Services had been an amalgamation of some bouncer operations in Cape Town, including that run by nightclub security kingpin and rumoured apartheid-state operative Cyril Beeka.

Some police officers previously pointed to the security outfit Beeka ran as a front for an extortion racket and apartheid-era cops.

Allegations of extortion relating to private security operations have persisted throughout the years.

Specialised Protection Services was officially launched in November 2011 – about eight months after Beeka was assassinated in Cape Town – but was shut down soon afterwards due to alleged registration issues.

Lifman and Booysen had been linked to Specialised Protection Services.

Meanwhile, about eight years ago in another court case, Booysen was reportedly pointed to as the leader of the Sexy Boys gang and as having been involved in Beeka’s murder.

He was, however, not charged in connection with these allegations.

In the case of the Wainstein murder, Lifman, Booysen and Stevens appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday hours after the Hawks arrested them.

Each was granted R100 000 bail. They are expected back in court in February.

On Wednesday a statement issued by the police ministry said the trio were detained during “one of the phases of an ongoing investigation into extortion, dealing in drugs, fraud, corruption and money laundering activities of the Cape Town underworld organised crime.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele said: “This is only the beginning of our efforts as the police to tighten the grip on these crimes committed by the underworld and run extortion rackets that undermine the state and threaten the livelihoods of local economies.”

In September Cele had held a press conference in Cape Town following claims that businesses in the city were being extorted – similar claims had been made over several previous years.

He had vowed in September this would be clamped down on.

The names (and in one case the alias) of Lifman, Booysen and Stevens previously surfaced about three years ago during a bail application centred around suspect Nafiz Modack.

Modack had been close to Beeka.

Along with four other men, including Jerome Booysen’s brother Colin Booysen, he was arrested in December 2017, for allegedly extorting an establishment in Cape Town (of which they were subsequently acquitted of).

It had been alleged Modack was linked to a company, The Security Group.

During the bail application relating to this case, it emerged that the Hawks suspected Modack was heading a grouping that was intent on taking over private security operations from a more established grouping, consisting of individuals including Lifman and Booysen.

Lifman and Booysen were therefore portrayed as his alleged rivals.

During the bail application, several claims against police officers had surfaced.

For example, Modack had claimed that police officers Jeremy Vearey and Charl Kinnear, who were investigating matters relating to him, were actually on the payroll of Lifman and Booysen.

It had further emerged that Modack claimed Vearey had worked with the head of the 27s gang, who he named as Red, to have attorney Noorudien Hassan killed in November 2016.

Stevens is known by the alias Red.

During this extortion case bail application, Wainstein’s murder had also been referenced.

A recording of a phone call had been played in court and in it, a man identified as Wainstein could be heard swearing at Lifman who had also made rude remarks to Wainstein.

Tuesday’s arrests of Lifman, Booysen and Stevens in the Wainstein murder case follow four other arrests.

In November 2017 two brothers originally from Johannesburg, Matthew and Sheldon Breet, who had been Wainstein’s bodyguards, were detained.

It turned out during subsequent court proceedings that Sheldon Breet had been a police informant. News24 had later also reported that Sheldon Breet’s name surfaced in a SA Reserve Bank investigation into money that was allegedly illegally transferred to a Gupta-linked shelf company in Hong Kong.

In the case of Matthew Breet, it had emerged that he had run a private security company that was not properly registered.

He entered a plea deal with the State in December 2018 and was sentencer to 20 years in jail.

Two other men, alleged 27s gang member Fabian Cupido, and Cheslyn Adams, suspected to belong to the 27s gang and a street gang called the Spoilt Bratz, were also arrested in connection with Wainstein’s murder.

In June this year Cupido entered into a plea agreement and was jailed for 25 years.

Meanwhile, Adams was reportedly also serving a 25-year sentence for cases linked to the Wainstein murder. 

At the time of Wainstein’s murder, the US had wanted to extradite him from South Africa.

A US court document had reflected his assassination.

“The undersigned was advised on August 18, 2017, that Wainstein was shot and killed in South Africa on that date. South African authorities who have been assisting the United States with its attempt to extradite Wainstein in order to face the charges in this case have provided the United States with a certified copy of his death certificate dated September 1, 2017,” a court document outlining a motion to dismiss the case against him had said.

“Due to his death, the United States respectfully requests this Court dismiss the pending superseding indictment against him with prejudice.” 

Three years and one month after Wainstein’s murder – a period during which there were several other killings in Cape Town – Kinnear was assassinated outside his Bishop Lavis home on 18 September.

He had been investigating matters allegedly linked to Modack, as well as several other high-profile crimes relating to Cape Town’s underworld and possibly ties to corrupt cops.

Kinnear’s murder case was expected to expose criminality among police officers.

In December 2018 Kinnear had alleged, in a detailed complaint to his bosses, that certain crime intelligence officers were aligned to Modack, who in July this year was arrested along with several cops in connection with firearm-related charges.

Modack has previously countered that certain Cape Town police officers are corrupt and have conspired against him.

Zane Kilian, the suspect arrested in connection with Kinnear’s assassination, is expected to apply for bail in February, a week before Lifman, Booysen and Stevens are expected back in the dock for the Wainstein matter. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 1

  • What makes no sense is that these scumbags are granted bail. This only enables them to interfere with & intimidate witnesses, to the point that the case against them eventually collapses….

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted