South Africa's capital of organised crime

14 February 2012 - 02:32 By NASHIRA DAVIDS

Cape Town's image as South Africa's crime-free paradise is being tainted by international underworld figures who flock to the city to ply their dubious trade.

Table Mountain. File photo
Table Mountain. File photo
Image: The Times

In recent weeks, Serbian fugitive Dobrosav Gavric, Russian Igor Russol and Moroccan Houssain Ait Taleb have made appearances in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court.

They have all been branded by police as underworld figures with links to organised crime.

Yesterday, community safety MEC Dan Plato said he was concerned about these developments.

"I am worried about the fact that so many high-profile underworld figures are involved in Cape Town. I am worried about the number of foreign nationals involved in organised crime in Cape Town.

"My question is: why are all these foreign people heading for Cape Town, doing their business in Cape Town and finding Cape Town so cosy and appropriate?"

Plato said new names of underworld figures were daily being added to the list "known to us".

The latest high-profile case involves local businessmen Mark Lifman and André Naudé, who both allegedly ran Specialised Protection Services, providing security to Cape Town nightclubs, without the necessary permits.

On Friday, Naudé, the company's CEO, was released on R1000 bail after handing himself over to police. A warrant of arrest has been issued against Lifman, who is in China on business.

Charges against 13 of the company's bouncers, including Taleb, were dropped last week.

Yesterday, Russol appeared in court accused of extorting R600000 and a Porsche Cayenne from businesses in and around Cape Town. His bail application was postponed to tomorrow.

Next month, Gavric is set to appear in court on two cases. He is accused of fraudulently entering South Africa in 2007 and is also facing extradition to Serbia, where he has to serve a 35-year jail sentence for three murders.

The Serb was driving Cyril Beeka when Beeka was killed in a drive-by shooting last year. Beeka, too, has been branded an underworld figure. He is also said to have had links to SA Secret Service boss Moe Shaik.

Last week, Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer told parliament that drugs with a street value of R12-billion had been confiscated in the province since April , and that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Plato said that though police had managed to prevent drugs from finding their way into the provinces via the roads, the ports were "wide open".

He said: "We heard through the grapevine that [some] underground figures are also responsible for drug trafficking.

"We're dealing with high-profile, professional and sophisticated gang and drug bosses and we need people to outplay them. I do not believe the SAPS in its current format is in that position," he said.

Plato said this was a clear indication that specialised police units should be reinstated.

Plato said he had met Lifman and businessman Jerome Booysen, who have both been linked to the underworld.

Booysen has been fingered in court as a possible suspect in the Beeka murder. He has also been linked to Specialised Protection Services and suspected of being a leader of the Sexy Boys gang.

Both men, Plato said, wanted to clear their names and insisted they were not involved in crime.

He admitted that he had been criticised for meeting the two, but said it was the right thing to do.

"Many are saying: 'Don't speak to gangsters.' My take is, if we are not going to start speaking to these people, who is going to talk to them? Who is going to change their mindsets?

"Booysen is the president of the Belhar Rugby Football Club. He deals with vulnerable youngsters. It was appropriate for me to face him and challenge him. But he said: 'I'm not giving them drugs'."

Plato said Lifman had denied being linked to the murder of Yuri "the Russian" Ulianitski.

Ulianitski was killed in a late-night ambush that also claimed the life of his four-year-old daughter, Yulia, in May 2007.

After meeting Plato, Lifman left the country. Lawyer William Booth confirmed a warrant of arrest had been issued against him.

Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela said the elite unit had embarked on a "crackdown on the security industry in Cape Town".