Krejcir: Revenge of the Serbs?

Radovan Krejcir. (Lisa Skinner)

Radovan Krejcir. (Lisa Skinner)

Theories about the bomb blast at Radovan Krejcir’s Bedfordview Money Point gold exchange business are percolating in Johannesburg’s underworld – including the suspicion that it was a revenge attack by Serbian gangsters.

Two of his closest associates were killed in the blast on November 12, but Krejcir has kept unusually silent about the incident.

The explosion, which also saw several employees severely injured, again turned a spotlight on the Czech Republic man’s life and dealings in South Africa, where he is trying to gain the status of a refugee.

The enigmatic fugitive has made only brief comments to the media, in which he has declined to speak about the incident.

Although it is believed that he has made a statement to police, it is unclear whether he gave investigators any indication of who he thinks is behind the bomb.

Krejcir’s lawyer confirmed receipt of questions from amaBhungane on November 14, but there was no response by the time of going to press.

This is the second attack apparently aimed at him. The first was in July, when Krejcir survived an alleged assassination attempt when he was fired from a VW Polo fitted with gun barrels as he got out of his bulletproof car.

Although Krejcir was not at Money Point at the time of the blast, two of his right-hand men, Jan “Johnny” Charvat, from the Czech Republic, and Ronny Bvuma, were killed.

Also seriously injured in the blast was a younger man described by a source as “not a gangster”, a Bulgarian who acts as a bodyguard for Krejcir, and “an older guy” who is said to have worked nearby.

The impact of the explosion, which happened shortly after 5pm, reportedly blew out the windows and caused the ceiling to cave in.

Bvuma has been described as one of Krejcir’s lieutenants and “muscle”, and Charvat was said to be a “close friend of Radovan’s” from the Czech Republic. It has also been reported that Charvat was a convicted tax fraudster in his home country.

The attack has unleashed a wave of fear in the local underworld.

Where are the police?
It has also raised questions about police efforts to manage the spate of gangland-style murders that have hit Bedfordview in recent months.

“Where are the police? Where is the security?” one underworld operator asked this week.
“It’s not just about the gangsters any more. It’s about innocent people now.”

Although a “team of seasoned detectives” has been brought in to investigate, this does not appear to have instilled much confidence that the murders and attempted murders will be solved.

As bombs and bodies have dropped around Krejcir in the six years he has lived in Johannesburg, even the police have kept their distance, underworld and crime intelligence-linked sources have claimed.

Krejcir came to South Africa in 2007, after spending two years on the run from Czech authorities in the Seychelles. He is currently fighting extradition to the Czech Republic where he faces charges relating to fraud and kidnapping, among others.

He is due back in court in early December for an extradition hearing. Krejcir’s lawyers had argued the case could not continue until his request for asylum, still to be heard by the Refugee Appeals Board, is finalised.

In total 12 people closely or loosely associated with Krejcir, including the victims of the bomb, have been killed since his arrival. All of the murders remain unsolved.

Krejcir has denied any links to the killings.

'Truth will be known'
The Hawks’ spokesperson, Paul Ramaloko, said: “Cases of the so-called underworld are not quick to complete. We are making remarkable progress in all cases.”

Ramaloko also assured the “community” that “the truth will be known” in the not-too-distant future.

Following the murder last month of Bassam “Sam” Issa in an apparent hit, allegedly after he had been at Money Point, several of Issa’s friends and associates told ama-Bhungane that they feared a police investigation would go nowhere because of the interference of corrupt officers.

Ramaloko denied they were concerned about police corruption “at the moment”, but added that “if some elements of corruption exist, they will be exposed” and brought to book.

As is usual after such a big “hit”, the rumour mill is in overdrive.

Some sources believe that the attack was an accident and that the explosive device was “meant to be used somewhere else”.

Police told the media that a man walked into the shop carrying a bag with the explosive inside. The bomb allegedly went off after the still-unidentified man left.

Revenge?
But questions are also being asked about whether the attack was an act of revenge against Krejcir, or whether he was behind it.

An intelligence source said Krejcir was supposed to be at the shop when the bomb went off, but a source with insight into Krejcir’s circle, who asked not to be named, said that Charvat and Bvuma might have “betrayed” Krejcir in some way.

However, others theorise that the bomb could have been meant for Krejcir in revenge for the murder of Serbian Veselin “Vesko” Laganin two weeks ago in an alleged armed robbery.

Laganin, who was arrested last year with Krejcir on armed robbery charges relating to an incident in Pretoria, appears to have had his own network in South Africa.

The robbery charges against the two men were dropped.

Laganin was shot and killed at his home in Bedfordview, although police are still investigating how the assailants gained entry into his gated complex.

One of the reasons offered for the murder by some underworld sources was that he was starting to become a liability, and “he was talking too much about Krejcir’s dealings”.

Cocaine deals
Several sources also believe his death was linked to Issa’s murder.

One of those injured in the blast is said to be the brother of one of the people “who witnessed what actually happened that day Sam [Issa] died”.

Sources linked to Krejcir and to the intelligence world appear to be convinced that the murders of Issa and Laganin were related to a cocaine deal gone wrong. It has been claimed that the two were involved in the drug business.

Issa, a Lebanese national, had been living illegally in South Africa for 15 years.

More than 30 shots were fired at his car in the early hours of the morning of October 13, allegedly after he had spent the previous evening at Money Point.

Krejcir denied last month that he knew Issa personally.

But others are sceptical about the revenge motive theory.

“No one from Sam’s [Issa] side would have done this.”

One source noted that Laganin’s Serbian heavies “100% want revenge”, but added that the bomb explosion was not only “extravagant” but “too amateurish” for them.

“I don’t think his [Laganin’s] Serbian guys would work like that – with a bomb.

“And also, why go for everyone else and risk injuring people?”

The bombing is seen as an indication to many that “Krejcir has made plenty enemies. People are angry.”

The real deal
Although there are varying interpretations of how far Krejcir’s power reaches, some argue that he is the “real deal”.

One source with a rare insight into Krejcir’s circle said: “Let me just say that Radovan is as powerful as people think. When you talk about the Johannesburg underworld I automatically associate it with Radovan Krejcir.”

Krejcir has previously denied and even scoffed at such labels.

The source, who asked not to be named out of fear, noted that Krejcir is “damn intelligent” and this is what sets him apart from his local counterparts.

“He has a lot of money and he has all the right contacts in the right places. He is always one step ahead of everything and everyone.”

Another source, who associates with Bedfordview’s underworld, questioned the coincidence that all those who were killed or injured in the bomb attack were in the same place at the same time.

Motive
The source, who knew both of the dead men, claimed that there had been a fall-out of sorts between Bvuma and Krejcir a while ago and that Charvat apparently wanted “out” of “Bedfordview”.

The source believes this could be motive enough for someone in Krejcir’s circle to want to get rid of them.

“Whoever detonated the bomb must have been close. They could see they were all there, maybe having a meeting, and that they were all sitting in the same spot,” the source said. “Unfortunately, the others were just casualties.” 

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

Sally Evans

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