'Crooked cops fuel crime war'
Underworld figures, Hawks boss point to links to club security and organised crime
Rampant police corruption - which includes leasing clandestine cellphone-listening devices to criminals - is driving the country's deadly organised crime war.
That is the claim made by two of South Africa's most notorious figures in the night-club scene, Mark Lifman and Nafiz Modack, and backed up by the head of the Gauteng Hawks, Major-General Prince Mokotedi.
Candid interviews with the three are contained in a book by journalist Mandy Wiener, Ministry of Crime, due out this week. It reveals how much police corruption is part of the increasingly violent war for control of the security of lucrative nightclubs, which is intricately linked to the illicit drug trade and dodgy politicians.
While the fight between bitter rivals Lifman and Modack was until last year being fought primarily in Cape Town, it is spreading to Gauteng nightclubs and exotic clubs.In the book, both claim they are not involved in illegal activities and are only interested in the security of the club owners and patrons.
Mokotedi, who told Wiener that Modack had been a police informant until last year, said the country was in more trouble than the "ordinary person thinks".
He said: "Nobody [in the police] wants to touch organised crime because they fear the repercussions."
The Hawks needed a revamp and police intelligence agents had little know-how on how to infiltrate organised crime gangs.
"We meet our counterparts, who give us lists of targets hiding out in the country, but they are not even on our radar. Foreign police attachés are reluctant to meet [us] because they think we are compromised."
He said it was because of this that they met with Modack, who had helped with information on certain killings.
"I believe he was a registered police source until July. It was stopped apparently because he is not observing protocol. He is doing things that are unlawful."
Mokotedi said Modack had helped the Hawks with investigations, including into the disappearance of a police cellphone interceptor, known as a phone-signal grabber, from Cape Town. He said it is now thought to be kept in a Sandton hotel where it is used by criminals and politicians. The grabber can intercept calls and messages as it masquerades as a cellphone tower.
Mokotedi said Modack had been helping the Hawks locate the grabber, which he had also used, something Modack refused to comment on when asked by Wiener.
When his officers conducted investigations into syndicates, Mokotedi said, they came across at least six policemen who were part of a syndicate.
Both Lifman and Modack denied working with the police, each claiming the other has cops on their payroll.Modack, who did not respond to requests for an interview with the Sunday Times, told Wiener that his arrest in December for alleged extortion was carried out by cops in Lifman's pocket. He got involved in security "because bad things happened in the clubs".
Modack said those club owners he had approached agreed that they were happy Lifman was not going to be in town and that drugs were not going to be sold in the clubs.
"A change was needed. Very few people were going to take him on and he knows I'm not afraid of him, so I took him on."
Modack insisted he is not a police informant and denied selling information to or buying it from crime intelligence agents.
"Mokotedi wanted me to register, but I said I would give him information for free to make Cape Town safer. It's my duty as a South African citizen. It's Lifman who is the registered informer."
In the book, Lifman said he had never been involved in any bouncer extortion rackets and had always wanted to run a clean business, ensuring the safety of patrons. "I wanted to do this thing without thuggery."
He said that what Modack and gangster Jerome "Donkie" Booysen's brother, Colin, have been doing in Cape Town over the past few months is the exact opposite of what he set out to do.
"There's an extortion racket going on with Modack and Colin Booysen."
He added: "Modack is a registered police informer, but he is a criminal, so the police are entertaining criminals and that's a problem, and for me, if they are entertaining someone like him, they are criminals too."
• 350: the number of doormen or bouncers, working at 146 clubs in Cape Town, employed by Mark Lifman and Houssain Ait Taleb, who took over the beat following the murder of Cyril Beeka in 2011, according to Jacques Pauw’s book The President's Keepers
• R388 million: the bill presented to Mark Lifman by SARS in 2013. The case has not yet been settled
• 2: Mercedes-Benzes belonging to suspected underworld kingpin Nafiz Modack and his co-accused were among the cars seized and taken to Cape Town Central police station on Thursday for “investigation”. The cars, which also included a Land Rover, were seized in connection with the extortion charges Modack is facing in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court