CLASH OF THE CARTELS EXTRACT
‘Strip club fronts, drugs and diamond smuggling’ — book delves into Bulgaria and SA crime links
The recent murder in Cape Town of a suspect wanted for crimes in Bulgaria, as well as three others from there, hints at underworld connections between the two countries. Journalist Caryn Dolley’s book Clash of the Cartels reveals more details about this.
Organised crime overlaps between Bulgaria and South Africa have been in focus since it emerged that one of four people murdered in Cape Town last week was a suspect wanted in that country and who may be linked to a global crypto scam case.
Daily Maverick journalist Caryn Dolley reported this week that Krasimir Kamenov, his wife Gergana and two others, were found murdered in the upmarket suburb of Constantia on 25 May 2023 — and that 49 days before this, Bulgarian authorities had told South Africa that Krasimir was a wanted suspect they planned to arrest.
More details about organised crime linked to Bulgaria and South Africa are contained in Dolley’s book, Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa.
The book provides insight into how various international drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa.
Here we include an extract that focuses on Bulgaria:
‘The ecstasy guy’
Depending on who you ask, Angelo Dimov of Bulgaria was known in Cape Town as ‘the ecstasy guy’ because he could procure the so-called party drug on demand, with efficient ease and speed.
Then there is talk that he paired up with Brian Wainstein, as well as the 28s gang, and that infuriated the 27s gang, who wanted a monopoly over the illicit steroid trade.
There are other stories of Dimov cloning hundreds of bank cards and withdrawing wads of cash, and of him pairing up with figures involved in buying smashed-up luxury cars, patching them up rather shoddily and selling the wonky vehicles, disguised as premium modes of transport, at extravagant prices.
Cash laundering and strip clubs
More tales are along the lines that money he got hold of through dodgy dealings was being laundered via strip clubs in South Africa.
There are still other intriguing rumours attached to Dimov.
A residential address listed to him in Cape Town also happened to match that of an address registered to another Bulgarian man who shared the name of someone described by media over there as a figure ‘known to have been very close with the major Bulgarian drug dealer… Metodi Metodiev, aka “Meto Ilienski”, who disappeared mysteriously at the end of 2003’.
The Bulgarian man was also allegedly close to a figure widely known as Taki, who a publication there said was “considered one of the largest cocaine traffickers in Bulgarian history”, and who may have moved around to countries including South Africa.
To top this off, there are strong rumours that Dimov and his wife Nezabravka ‘Nessie’ Peeva, also from Bulgaria, were dabbling in illegal diamonds, and through this signed their own death warrants.
Credit card crimes
Dimov and Peeva were assassinated on 12 February 2018 in a home they were renting in the Cape Town suburb of Bergvliet.
They were both shot execution-style, bringing the total number of murders with suspected drug links detailed in these pages so far to at least 37.
At the time of the double assassination, Dimov was facing criminal charges over a credit card scam in a case dating back a decade, to 2008.
He was suspected of operating with individuals including a man from Serbia.
Authorities in Cape Town alleged Dimov and associates ran “a scheme of using duplicate credit cards or debit cards to make unauthorised withdrawals” at automated teller machines (ATMs).
Dimov and another suspect were arrested in November 2008 in the rural town of Moorreesburg, about 90 kilometres from Cape Town, and it was the state’s case that when taken into custody, they were found with several white plastic cards that turned out to be cloned bank cards.
“The majority of these cards are duplicate cards, due to the fact that cards with identical information on the magnetic stripes belonged to overseas and local cardholders and/or cardholders unknown to the state.”
Dimov wanted to distance himself from the idea of criminality.
He claimed he “suffered severe emotional stress and financial strain” after his 2008 arrest.
Dimov said it “had a negative effect on the way the public perceived him and his family as they [were] labelled as ‘criminals’.”
The criminal credit card charges against him were at some point provisionally withdrawn, thereby letting him off the hook, but he was again arrested in 2013 on another fraud case, and then again detained in 2015.
The initial card cloning charges were later reinstated.
Credit card crimes, strip club shenanigans and drug and diamond dealing are the most frequently mentioned misdemeanours that crop up in relation to Bulgarian underworld figures in SA.
Whether fact or fabrication, the stories surrounding the double murder of Peeva and Dimov tick all these boxes.
It would later turn out that their assassinations were sandwiched in between two pivotal police investigations on drug deals happening off South Africa’s coast.
These two interlinked investigations provided insight into what some Bulgarian operatives in underworld circles were getting up to.
The substance that seemed to link the Peeva and Dimov killings to the two major investigations was drugs — the reported discovery of 930 Mandrax pills in a garden shed at their home after their murders.
Sulphur odour and a jacuzzi-cum-wine cellar
An investigation that unfolded years ahead of the Peeva and Dimov murders had its roots in leaked information.
Back in February 2014, a Hawks officer received a juicy tip-off — that Mandrax was being concocted inside the garage of a house at an estate in the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Durbanville.
Warrant officer Johann Combrinck went to investigate.
“He observed that the garage door was partially open and that activities were taking place inside the garage. He noticed that the garage windows were covered with white plastic bags and saw an individual exiting the house wearing a white overall and safety mask,” court papers later stated.
“He also smelt a strong odour of sulphur, which is usually released during the manufacturing process of Mandrax. The mask and overall appeared similar to those worn by him and his team to protect themselves from dangerous substances when destroying clandestine [drug] laboratories.”
Combrinck left the scene, planning to return.
The next day, Combrinck made his way back to the estate.
He asked residents about the house and was told foreigners were staying there.
Based on the narcotics tip-off, he obtained a search warrant authorising police to search for “drugs, documents, electronic equipment and manufacturing equipment”.
On 25 February 2014, Combrinck and colleagues swooped on the house.
“In the garage what appeared to be a hidden channel, approximately 2 metres in depth, was being constructed on the floor. The [person responsible for the house] told him that they were building a jacuzzi, although Combrinck observed built-in panels inside the channel which he considered to be at odds with the explanation.”
Also at odds with the jacuzzi explanation was that the same person had told an associate that something very different was being built — a wine cellar.
Combrinck and the team moved to the main bedroom.
On opening a cupboard door, he “found a blue Karrimor bag containing a large amount of cash. In an adjoining cupboard, he found a black Fabia bag which also contained considerable cash.”
Combrinck confiscated the cash because he was not given a proper explanation of how it came to be there.
It later emerged that the Durbanville home the police searched was suspected to have been bought via the proceeds made from sold jewellery, or diamonds smuggled into South Africa.” DM
Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of crime/drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available now from the Daily Maverick Shop.