Into the murky world of clubs, cops and cafe connections
Was it diligent police work or police on gangster payrolls that put Cape Town's alleged underworld kingpins behind bars?
There are two versions of events for why virtually all of Cape Town’s alleged underworld kingpins were behind bars by Friday last week.
The first is that diligent police followed up on a complaint by the Grand Cafe, at the V&A Waterfront, that it was being extorted. This led to the arrest of Nafiz Modack and four other men believed to be running Cape Town’s biggest extortion racket.
On the same note, Mark Lifman was arrested at Cape Town International Airport last week for allegedly pointing a firearm at Modack in March last year (charges were dropped on Friday).
The second version suggests that when a bloody war for control of Cape Town’s nightclubs reached a stalemate and, after several assassination attempts and alleged hits failed to break it, the gangsters called the cops.
A statement by Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Viljoen, of the Hawks’ anti-corruption task team — read out in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court during the marathon bail hearing of Modack and his team — revealed how Modack has regular contact with senior police officers.An internal Hawks memo seen by Times Select shows how Modack even tried to contact Police Minister Fikile Mbalula 17 times between October 10 and 17, apparently without success. This included 13 text messages.
Mbalula’s spokesman, Vuyo Mhaga, said he was not aware of the calls and messages. “The minister changed his phone so it won’t be possible for him to go back and check what the messages were,” he said.Lifman was arrested after a police captain visited Modack in Pollsmoor Prison to interview him about the purported gun incident. Lifman’s lawyer, William Booth, said the case number under which he was arrested was bogus and related to a drug possession charge in January, when Lifman was in Europe.Lifman was released on Friday but it is understood the docket has since been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further consideration.
Expanding on Modack’s alleged police connections, Viljoen said: “It appears from detailed billing and phone conversations that Nafiz Modack has contact with various high-ranking police officers, in excess of 10.
“It’s unknown if Modack is a registered informant. Informants usually have one police handler. The information suggests that there is a possible corrupt relationship between Modack and some high-ranking police officers and that he plays a role with them to further his criminal activities. He plays them off against each other.”
He then referred to an incident in Worcester in which Modack and 12 other men were arrested for armed robbery. Billing information from Modack’s phone showed he called Major-General Mzwandile Tiyo after his arrest. All the men were immediately released.
But according to five lawyers arguing for their clients’ freedom in the bail hearing, Modack is not the only one with police on his payroll.
It was pointed out that the case against one of Modack’s co-accused, Jacques Cronje, rests partly on a complaint made by Lifman that Cronje called him a paedophile.
Colonel Charl Kinnear, the investigating officer in the case, visited Lifman’s Sea Point residence twice last year “to interview” him about the complaint. The defence insinuated that the Grand Cafe extortion case was discussed during the visits and that Lifman is behind the whole case.
Lifman was previously responsible for The Grand Cafe’s security, and at a retainer of R100,000 a month, plus up to R150,000 per event, it must have hurt to lose such a client.The defence also implicated Lifman in the death of Interpol fugitive Brian Wainstein by playing an audio recording alleged to be of a phone call between the two on the day before Wainstein was shot and killed in his Constantia mansion — described as a fortress — while lying in bed with his fiancee and child last year.
The defence claimed Wainstein was targeted because he had started working with Modack.
Wainstein was fighting extradition to the US for allegedly flooding the country with illicit steroids to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Lifman’s associate, bouncer Andre Naude, told Times Select during an interview last year that the evidence about a weapon being stolen from one of his bouncers by one of Modack’s men was true.
He said he was not working with the police but would testify in the case against Modack because he wanted “the truth” to come out.