Serbian fugitive Dobrosav Gavric’s application for refugee status was “opportunistic and calculated”, the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court heard on Friday.
State advocate Dave Damerell told magistrate Joe Magele that Gavric would flee the country if released on bail and his application for refugee status failed.
“Gavric is a fugitive from justice and a seasoned world traveller. His record does not paint a picture of a law-abiding person.
“His applications, for bail and refugee status, are opportunistic and he thinks he can buy himself time with them.”
Gavric fled his home country after being convicted for a premeditated triple murder in which warlord Zeljko Raznatovic was one of the victims.
He entered South Africa on a false passport five years ago and was arrested late last year after Serbian authorities informed the Hawks of his true identity.
The Serbian government requested his detention and extradition back to the country.
Because Gavric was on the run he had to persuade the court there were exceptional and substantial circumstances and that his release on bail was in the interests of justice, he said.
“Gavric’s connections with the underworld enable him to move at any time but he will stay in this country for as long as it suits him,” Damerell said.
“When he finally has to face the music, if he is on bail, he will evade justice.”
The home affairs department said on Thursday that Gavric had been declared “a prohibited person” in South Africa.
Director general Mkuseli Apleni said Gavric’s wife Danijela Lazic and child had also been listed as undesirable persons. This meant Gavric, who entered the country under the alias of Sasa Kovacevic, had failed in his bid for refugee status and faced deportation. His extradition hearing is pending.
One of Gavric’s lawyers, Peter Mihalik, said Gavric was in detention under a “provisional” arrest warrant — only valid for 18 days in terms of the European Convention. He said the period had expired and Gavric was now entitled to his release.
Mihalik said there were no witnesses with whom he could interfere, nor any evidence with which to tamper. He said it was unlawful to keep someone in custody in anticipation of a sentence the offender might eventually receive.
If the police arrested a suspect for the 2011 murder of underworld figure Cyril Beeka, Gavric would be required as a state witness to the shooting. Gavric was Beeka’s driver at the time of the drive-by shooting.
Because he would be needed as a witness, Gavric could not understand why the police were so keen to deport him, Mihalik said.
His second lawyer, Johann Nortje, said Gavric was not before the court for an offence committed in South Africa. Because the arrest warrant issued in terms of the convention had expired, Gavric was “entitled as of right” to his release from detention.
Gavric was entitled to the protection of the law until the outcome of his refugee status application was known, Nortje said.
A ruling on the bail application will be given on February 3. – Sapa