Cape Town - A gangster who “never dirtied his own hands” with murder has been branded the brains behind a series of crimes and handed three life sentences for murder.

Saliem John, nephew of the late ganglord Colin Stanfield and suspected leader of the 28s gang, was sentenced along with six co-accused in the Western Cape High Court.

The charges include murder, dealing in drugs, malicious damage to property, attempted murder, illegal gang activity and the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and charges under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) for gang-related incidents in Valhalla Park.

John’s co-accused were Andrew Petersen, Jimmy Kemp, Rodney Matinise, Anthony Bestman and Nicky Kruger.

Another co-accused, Thomas van Wyk, was acquitted on all charges and released.

They were arrested last year when police set up sting operations to curb drug and gang activities.

Judge Lee Bozalek had found the men guilty of participating in a criminal gang.

John was convicted for the murders of Elfonso Maritz, Randall Rutgers and Ronald Levy in 2007 and the attempted murder of Eden Smith in 2008.

Yesterday Judge Bozalek handed down a life sentence for each of these murders, five years for contravening the Poca Act, three years for dealing in drugs and drug trafficking, three years for possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition, five years for attempted murder and five years for malicious damage to property.

The sentences for all the accused run concurrently.

Judge Bozalek said that while John “never dirtied his own hands with the murders” he was the “brains behind the crimes”.

Petersen will effectively spend 24 years in jail.

Jimmy Kemp received a life sentence. Rodney Matinise will spend an effective 28 years in prison. Anthony Bestman was sentenced to an effective seven years. Nicky Kruger will spend 15 years in jail.

All the men’s convictions included murder. The men’s leave to appeal will be heard on April 25.

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Cape Argus