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From a hit to steroid deals, the other underworld suspicions surrounding alleged 28s boss Ralph Stanfield

From a hit to steroid deals, the other underworld suspicions surrounding alleged 28s boss Ralph Stanfield
Ralph Stanfield. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger)

In August 2017, Brian Wainstein, a globally connected steroid smuggler, was assassinated in Cape Town. Journalist Caryn Dolley’s book ‘Clash of the Cartels’ details suspected links between that case and local figures, among them recently arrested 28s gang boss-accused Ralph Stanfield.

A group of men accused of involvement in the murder of steroid smuggler Brian Wainstein in his Cape Town home in 2017 may go on trial in 2024.

The case could further expose details about how the city fits into a web of organised crime stretching beyond South Africa and involving local and international suspects.

Wainstein was assassinated in his home in the upmarket suburb of Constantia in August 2017.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Charges against murdered ‘Steroid King’ reveal a global web of crime cases

The month before he was murdered, alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield, who is usually based in Cape Town, was wounded in a shooting in Johannesburg.

It was suspected the same figures targeted him and Wainstein.

Stanfield, along with his wife Nicole Johnson, and two other accused, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 2 October 2023 following their arrest a few days earlier in relation to other criminal charges.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SAPS big guns descend on Cape Town court for case involving alleged 28s boss Ralph Stanfield

Journalist Caryn Dolley’s book Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa details how Stanfield allegedly (and mostly based on the State’s views) fits into previous situations linked to Wainstein.

Here is an extract:


Bullets and a hitlist

An increasingly heavy legal front was bearing down on [Brian] Wainstein [also known as the Steroid King]. 

By 2017 his name had cropped up in several steroid-linked cases in various countries. 

He was still wanted by the US, and his name was on a hitlist in South Africa. 

Tensions in South Africa’s underworld were mounting, some linked to the nightclub security arena in Cape Town. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Enforcers – Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles

In July 2017 an alleged associate of Wainstein’s, suspected 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield, usually based in Cape Town, was shot while driving in Johannesburg. 

Ralph, a thickset man known to wear a bulletproof vest when appearing in court, was the nephew of Colin Stanfield, the alleged leader of the gang conglomerate The Firm, who in the 1990s was under investigation for mass Mandrax smuggling along with [Indian drug lord] Vicky Goswami and co. 

Ralph’s uncle Colin was jailed back in 2002 for tax evasion; he was subsequently released from custody as he was terminally ill, and died of lung cancer in 2004.

underworld Stanfield

Ralph’s name was well known to police investigators, who suspected he’d picked up the criminal pieces where his late uncle left off, and that he was involved in various crimes, including illegally procuring firearm licences via corrupt cops.

This case… was a hotbed of cop complicity claims. 

“It was complicated by the number of suspects in different provinces and the suspected involvement of present and past members of the SAPS.”

Allegations aside, Ralph Stanfield survived the July 2017 attempted assassination in Johannesburg. 

Wainstein suspected Mark Lifman masterminded the shooting on Stanfield and, in retaliation, hatched a plan to kidnap and kill Lifman’s bodyguard.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Assassinations and conspiracies: The web of violence surrounding Cape Town’s bouncer wars is unravelling in court

But this plan failed. And Wainstein himself was next on the hitlist. 

When The Steroid King was murdered in his Constantia bedroom in August 2017, US authorities dismissed their case against him. 

The Steroid King’s long trail of legal woes was a thing of the past. 

But the effects of his activities continued to reverberate around Cape Town. 

‘I will destroy you’

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority described Wainstein’s assassination as a “gang-related contract killing which was premeditated and committed in the furtherance of a conspiracy and in association with a criminal gang”.

Sources with intimate knowledge of Cape Town’s underworld and who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted Wainstein continued dealing in steroids while in the city. 

There were strong rumours he had paired up with the 28s gang. 

So it seemed significant that his murder came the month after that gang’s suspected boss Ralph Stanfield was wounded.

Wainstein was said to have embedded himself in the worst part of Cape Town’s underbelly, the part that harboured assassins, desperate gangsters and brutes disguised as legitimate businessmen – and created friction there. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: 28s gang ‘capture’ top Western Cape cops, prosecutors’ lives at risk – judge sounds corruption alarm

His apparent pairing up with 28s gangsters equated to him promoting himself to become a powerful figure in South African drug-dealing circles. 

This would have peeved a variety of figures, ranging from rival 27s gangsters, themselves involved in the steroid and drug trade, to a ruthless cast of characters associated with them.

Wainstein apparently did not see eye to eye with Lifman and his associates, including Jerome ‘Donkie’ Booysen – in other words, one of the two major groups police investigators believed were vying for control of nightclub and restaurant security in Cape Town

The state was told Lifman and Wainstein clashed over property and investment deals. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Three accused in the murder of ‘steroid king’ Brian Wainstein have been killed – who’s next?

An audio clip of a cellphone conversation, possibly recorded hours before Wainstein was murdered, revealed just how inflamed the situation between the duo was. 

This conversation was initially between Lifman and a second unidentified man. 

In the recording, the second man tells Lifman that he’s on the way to see “Brian”. It turns out, though, that “Brian” is right there with the man, but initially keeps quiet so that Lifman doesn’t realise this. 

Lifman says to the man: “I warned you, okay? Remember that… Including that fat fuck that you’re going to see now, that piece of peasant shit.”

On hearing the insults, an enraged Wainstein can no longer keep quiet and yells at Lifman: “You motherfucking poes. You’re a fucking dead bastard. You’re a fucking dead bastard, you cunt. I’m going to fuck you up, I’m going to fuck you up, you faggot little cunt. Come, Mark, come, you little shit. Fuck you… I’m here in Cape Town. You’re a fucking brave little cunt. You’ve got fuck-all. If I see you I will destroy you. Do you understand me?”

In the end, it was Wainstein who was destroyed.

A police informant and a Spoilt Bratz gangster

Four men were initially arrested in connection with the Wainstein assassination: stocky brothers Matthew and Sheldon Breet, originally from Johannesburg, who had been Wainstein’s bodyguards; alleged 27s gang member Fabian Cupido; and Chestlyn (sometimes spelled Cheslin) Adams, who was suspected of belonging to the 27s gang as well as a street gang called the Spoilt Bratz. 

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

Sheldon Breet, it turned out, was a police informant who was also involved in drug dealing, the rhino-horn trade and black-market steroid dealing.

It was the South African state’s case that the Breet brothers, having guarded for Wainstein, knew the layout of Wainstein’s home and his routine. 

The state further suspected that Lifman was the moneyman who ultimately financed the shooting of Ralph Stanfield in Johannesburg in 2017, as well as Wainstein’s murder. 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.


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