There’s nothing like a juicy Mafia story to make us sit up and pay attention to crime. Crime committed by Europeans whose names South Africans can’t pronounce is so much more exciting than the other, more pedestrian variety. It even has reporters using words like “seedy” and “murky” together with “underworld” and, when they’re feeling lyrical, “underbelly”.
It’s also fun to wait for the reaction of certain online commenters. You know, the ones who blame all our problems on the “blecks”, and how we’re really not grateful enough for all the fine roads and fast food chains Western civilisation has blessed Africa with. Those commenters.
But really, the story of Czech tycoon and alleged Mafia boss, Radovan Krejcir, is something straight out of a movie. In the complex tendrils of the story one can find hit lists, drive-by shootings, hot wives, crooked cops, maverick private investigators and more. It’s a scriptwriter’s dream.
In fact I can’t wait to see which cultural references the judge, whose misfortune it will be one day to deal with this complicated case, will use.
I say this because I had the privilege of being present when Judge Frans Kgomo read out his final judgement in the Brett Kebble murder case in November 2010, which saw Glenn Agliotti walk free. The poor judge was trying to understand the murky seediness of the underworld’s belly, or something, and in desperation, I imagine, turned to Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.
It was a bizarre moment. I had nearly nodded off at his monotone recap of the minutiae of the complicated case when his references to the Corleone family, dons and “button men” suddenly jerked me back. The whole thing took on a dreamy feel and I’m thankful to Kgomo for proving that esteemed judges are movie watchers too.
So in the interests of helping the judge who must one day try to understand this case, not to mention our hapless Leon Schuster-dominated film industry, here is my list of screenplay gold from Krejcir: The Movie.
The hit list
Petty nitpickers have pointed out that whole hit-list idea, which the Hawks say they found in Krejcir’s house during Wednesday’s raid, sounds a bit far-fetched. What kind of anal murderer writes down a list of people he’s going to kill? Was he liable to forget it? It was just four names after all, all people he apparently hated enough to want to kill and therefore, one must assume, whose names he’d know.
I say, forget the nitpickers. Life is allowed to imitate art now and then, especially when art intends to make a money printing blockbuster of said life. Good on Krejcir for making a list, not once, but twice, and to the Hawks for finding it. But we need a few more details: What does the list look like? Did he jot it down on a Post-it® note? Did he bother with symbolism and use a red pen? And most importantly, did he cross people off as he went along, so that Hawk investigators found a grizzly line drawn through Cyril Beeka’s name? Details, people, details.
The East Rand
Of all the places for the criminal underworld to gather … the East Rand? Really? The place may not be the armpit of Johannesburg, but it’s a bit like the elbow: awkward and out of the way. Nonetheless here is the place where Krejcir has his “Bedfordview mansion”, as we’re repeatedly told. OK, so maybe it was just four bedrooms, but apparently that’s all you need to qualify for mansion status in South Africa if you aggregate the kind of places South Africans generally live in. Don’t include the politicians though, because that would skew the results.
Right drama, wrong house
We could perhaps turn our Mafioso crime thriller into a black comedy, directed by Guy Ritchie. We’d start with the scene where the Hawks barrel into Bedfordview, armoured cars, helicopters, stun grenades and general racket-making equipment at full blast — only to discover they were at the wrong house — 54 Kloof Road instead of 54A. “This kind of misunderstanding happens regularly,” shrugged Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polele. “But on the positive side, we got access faster to Krejcir’s house.” And the R100 000 damage they caused to the neighbour’s property in the process? Lesson #1: Don’t live next to a Mafia don. Lesson #2? Make enough noise and your suspect will get away.
The antihero, or hero — depending on your views
If black comedy doesn’t do it for you, Krejcir: The Movie, lends itself to classic nouveau too, thanks to the presences of one Irish suit turned private investigator, in his desperate quest for The Truth. You can’t make this stuff up — Paul O’Sullivan really is that guy. All he needs is a hat and trench coat. He sacrificed his swanky job as head of security at OR Tambo airport when his suspicions were raised about a major crime syndicate involving cops. Thus began his eight-year crusade to bring down former police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi. He succeeded against crazy odds but lost a whole lot in the process and uncovered a labyrinthine network of shady individuals and even shadier deals. Working tirelessly, he managed to persuade various people to turn state witness, but when he was close to clinching the deal, as was the case with strip club owner Lolly Jackson, he was thwarted by crooked cops. Did I mention that he’s number two on the hit list?
Spy versus spy
Krejcir bought so many cops he could probably start his own sadistic security force, but then what would people like police boss Bheki Cele do? Privatising police brutality is not the answer. Nonetheless the Hawks don’t trust police crime intelligence, whose members they say have recorded their conversations and passed it on to suspects, allowing them to get away. The police, on the other hand, are apparently grumpy that O’Sullivan is the lead character and they’re the skivvies on the set. Whatever the case is, it’s a cruel game of cat and mouse, where you can’t trust anyone. And it’s coming soon to a screen near you.