Underworld in the dock

Published Feb 6, 2012

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The self-proclaimed head of the Russian underworld in Cape Town is expected in court today after being arrested for allegedly extorting R600 000 and a luxury car from businesses around the city.

Igor Russol, best friend of slain nightclub kingpin Yuri “the Russian” Ulianitski, and an alleged South African accomplice are expected to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court, the same court and the same day as Serbian fugitive Dobrosav Gavric.

And tomorrow Houssain Ait Taleb and 12 other city bouncers from Specialised Protection Services (SPS), the company set up after Cyril Beeka’s murder in March last year, are expected to appear.

All three cases have alleged links to the city’s underworld and are coming before court as the lid is lifted on notorious dealings and associations in Cape Town.

Russol, 40, was arrested four days ago in the first of what turned into a string of weekend arrests targeting the nightclub industry, especially a new player dominating the scene, Specialised Protection Services (SPS).

His arrest came weeks after he told the Cape Times he suspected that a fight for control of the city’s criminal network, including city nightclubs, led to Ulianitski’s assassination and that of underworld figure Cyril Beeka in March last year.

Russol had said he partially owned a number of properties in the city and voiced concerns about the emergence of SPS.

Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela said Russol and his local accomplice were arrested for allegedly extorting R600 000 and a Porsche Cayenne from businessmen in Cape Town.

A day after Russol was taken into custody, a major clampdown on city bouncers began.

Twelve SPS bouncers were arrested late on Friday and a 13th early on Saturday.

In recent weeks SPS made headlines after it emerged the company, set up after Beeka’s murder, was an amalgamation of two rival companies, one previously run by Beeka.

SPS was also put under the spotlight when it emerged that most of the bouncers were not registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira), as required by law.

Yesterday Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, who is probing the city’s bouncer industry, said while he was pleased with the 13 arrests, he was concerned that hours before the raid, club owners were tipped off about it.

“By noon on Friday lots of club owners were aware of it. They called me to tell me about it. This is something we cannot tolerate.

“If police go on a raid, why are they tipping people off? If this was a raid for drugs, the drugs would’ve been out of the clubs already because of the leaked information. This is why we’ll never get to the bottom of issues like drug dealing,” Plato said.

He said he planned to meet provincial Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer this morning and his concerns were top of the meeting’s agenda.

Police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said 12 bouncers were arrested as they were not registered with the Psira. He said a 13th bouncer was arrested for illegally pointing a firearm.

“The South African Police Services will not tolerate a stronghold in our city over our nightspots. Individuals who posed as security officers without being compliant with the law will be dealt with. Similar operations will be conducted in due course,” Van Wyk said.

None of the 13 SPS bouncers had criminal records and they were released on R500 bail each.

Yesterday André Naudé, an SPS chief executive officer who has consistently denied SPS is involved in any illegal activities, said it appeared his company was being victimised.

He questioned why police had only targeted clubs that SPS worked for. “I’m going to have to operate on a skeleton staff now. What’s going to happen is that we’ll be putting the city’s nightclubs at risk,” Naudé said.

Of nearly 400 SPS bouncers, only 30 percent were registered with Psira and he said these would be stationed at the 146 clubs SPS worked for around the province.

The other SPS bouncers were in the process of registering with Psira, he said.

Naudé said among the 13 arrested was Houssain Ait Taleb, better known as Houssain Moroccan, for allegedly pointing a firearm.

Taleb, a martial arts expert, used to work under Beeka in the 1990s when bouncers were notorious for using violence to force their services on club owners.

In an interview with the Cape Times about a week ago, Taleb had said he no longer believed in violence and patrolled the city centre nearly every night monitoring SPS’s bouncers.

In another previous interview with the Cape Times, Naudé listed two businessmen, Mark Lifman and Jerome Booysen, as people backing the company.

In the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court last month, during the bail application of Gavric, who was driving Beeka when he was murdered, the investigating officer, Paul Hendrikse, said Lifman was being investigated for organised crime and Booysen was a suspect in Beeka’s murder and a member of the Sexy Boys gang.

Gavric, who is wanted in Serbia for killing a warlord and two others 13 years ago, is expected in court today for extradition proceedings to begin. - The Cape times

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