George Louca could be the key to unlocking the workings of the country’s underworld, write Angelique Serrao and Shain Germaner.
Johannesburg - He
was calm, as if this was just another day. But for police, journalists and court officials this was a significant moment.
Before them stood the man who has been punted as the key to unlocking the workings of South Africa’s criminal underworld.
It had taken officials nearly fours years to get George Louca back to South Africa. Now he finally stood in a South African court facing charges of murder and money laundering.
He had fled to Cyprus shortly after the death of strip king Lolly Jackson.
All along Louca has been adamant he did not kill Jackson, and seemingly willing to chat about that night, he always came up short on detail. Now he is apparently being very co-operative with police.
Louca could reveal the entire working of Radovan Krejcir’s empire, including naming top police officers and businessmen who were allegedly on his pay roll.
Forensic consultant Paul O’Sullivan, who has been investigating Krejcir, said he expects Louca will not only reveal what happened to Jackson, but will also shed light on whether former crime intelligence head Joey Mabasa was involved.
O’Sullivan said Louca also has information on the murders of German supercar specialist Uwe Gemballa and security mogul Cyril Beeka. While media reports yesterday suggested that Mabasa, had been cleared of all suspicion, The Star has learnt from two highly-placed sources that Louca is providing further information on the former major general’s possible links with the case.
Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko did confirm that the gun used in Jackson’s shooting was not the one lost by Mabasa, as they did not share the same bullet calibre. However, Ramaloko would not be drawn to comment on whether Mabasa was ruled out altogether as being linked to Louca’s flight from South Africa or knowledge of Jackson’s murder.
Media reports from 2010 showed that Mabasa was linked to Krejcir, whose name has been dropped throughout the Louca investigation. His wife Dorcas was the director of a company, Radlochron (Pty) that was also partially owned by Krejcir’s wife Katerina Krejcirova.
Ramaloko said that Louca had indeed been “very co-operative”, and that his information has given investigators several leads. “We will explore all avenues… The (Lolly Jackson case) is just a part of the big picture,” said Ramaloko.
O’Sullivan said he first came across George Smith more than four years ago when he discovered that Smith’s real name was Louca.
“I found that he was the middle-man in an elaborate money laundering scheme. Working with then general Joey Mabasa, I put together an elaborate plan, that would see Lolly Jackson giving evidence against Radovan Krejcir,” said O’Sullivan.
Attempts to reach Mabasa were unsuccessful.
The investigation began through an affidavit made by a banker at Laiki Bank, Alekos Andreou Panayi.
In his affidavit, Panayi said he was transferring funds off-shore for Jackson. He did this by matching him with people who were coming into South Africa and Jackson gave them rands. They paid him in euros or dollars paid into an overseas account. The amounts ranged from R500 000 to R2 million per transaction.
He said Jackson’s accounts held around $900 000 and e300 000. He was earning a 1 percent commission on the value of every deal.
In the last deal, a few weeks before the bank closed in 2007 Panayi said things went wrong. He said he was introduced to Krejcir through George Smith.
“Krejcir was introduced because his off-shore company had an account with Laiki bank in Cyprus,” Panayi said. Krejcir told the banker he was relocating to South Africa and he needed to bring in funds.
“His main needs were to bring in funds to purchase the house he lives in currently, at Kloof Road, Bedfordview. I therefore acted in a transaction with Jackson, to swop R1 million for euros,” the affidavit said.
Panayi said the funds were being transferred to an account in the name of George Smith in Cyprus, but Krejcir held the signing power over the account.
But the bank refused to transfer the money as it appeared to be money laundering as Krejcir was a fugitive from the law.
“The sale of euros was put on hold until Krejcir made alternative arrangements to transfer the funds from, I believe, an account in Poland, operated by his mother,” Panayi said.
This put pressure on the relationship between the banker and Jackson and shortly afterward he said he got a call from Jackson accusing him of theft and threatening his life because Krejcir never sent the money.
At the time of Jackson’s killing in May 2010, police were keeping tight-lipped about the link between Louca and Mabasa.
It was understood that on the night of the killing, Louca phoned Mabasa and confessed he had gunned down Jackson.
Louca was a long-time informant of the police.
Mabasa told The Star a weeping Smith told him on the night: “I’ve done something terrible.”
Mabasa recruited the man who used the name “George Smith” as a police informant several years prior to Jackson’s death. He had been dropped as a police informant about 2008 because he was “unreliable”.
Mabasa said Louca was willing to meet with police just hours after the crime was committed, but it was later said Louca allegedly never arrived at the meeting point.
It was revealed later that Mabasa himself was being investigated for possible involvement in the murder.
Speculation ran rife about Mabasa’s firearm having gone missing and being used as a possible murder weapon in the Jackson killing, but this week, the Hawks confirmed that the gun used in the killing was of a different calibre.
In September 2011, Mabasa was reportedly “discharged” from the police service. “It was felt that it was in the interest of the SA Police Service for his services to be discontinued. We felt we no longer needed him. The bad publicity around him in the media also contributed in some way,” then Hawks spokesman Mcintosh Polela said.
Meanwhile, Louca had managed to flee to Cyprus a short while after Jackson’s death, but was arrested in 2012 by local authorities. On March 28, 2012, Louca appeared before the Limassol Magistrate’s Court on multiple charges.
Louca told The Star from the holding cells beneath court that he would not reveal Jackson’s killer because this would put his own life in danger. He said he knew that the South African police saw him as the prime suspect in Jackson’s murder and the media believed he was a hitman, but said he did not fire the bullets that killed the former King of Sleaze.
He claimed to be little more than a fall guy, a decoy to direct attention away from the real heads of the Joburg underworld.
Last year, a voice recording emerged where Louca claimed to have witnessed the murder.
In the sound clip, Louca gives reasons for what may have sparked the shooting. Louca says that he has spoken to the investigating officer over Jackson’s case numerous times, telling him that if he gives him a guarantee he will be put into witness protection, then he will gladly return.
“But he won’t do it. They (the police) know I didn’t pull the trigger. How could I shoot him in my house? But I was there, I saw what happened.” The Cypriot then disclosed that he had organised a passport for Jackson, who wanted to move to Australia, and was paid for it.
Louca felt his life was in danger as his brother, sister and child had all been threatened.
He called Mabasa – not to confess he killed Jackson as was reported, but to tell him who had.
“I called the f****** police. I told Mabasa who killed Lolly. He organised for a meeting. He said come to Harbour and all four were there. I saw them and I ran.”
He details how money was stolen from Jackson, causing him to lose his temper and become aggressive.
This precipitated his murder. “I know how much money they took from Lolly, the millions. They provided a fake Swiss trust fund and paid euros into an account in Cyprus and Lolly paid them rands. Lolly realised it was a fake account. He came to me and said he wanted his money back. He shouted at them.”
Louca admits breaking the law in South Africa, saying he was “playing games” and “making big bucks”.
Meanwhile, Louca’s alleged links to Krejcir were reported throughout the investigation into Jackson’s murder, but were cemented by the South African Revenue Service last year.
In the Sars preservation order against Krejcir, Louca was named as a financial associate of Krejcir.
In Sars’ founding affidavit, it reveals that Louca had borrowed more than R3.7 million from Krejcir’s company, G2B.
When Louca defaulted on his payments, a number of expensive assets were seized, including a Bavaria Motoryacht and dozens of other motor vehicles.
Louca was told by the Cypriot courts to return to South Africa, and spent almost two years fighting to have the order overturned.
He was eventually returned to South Africa on Sunday.