22 June 2024 | 01:25 AM

Court damns Krejcir investigation

Key Takeaways

The integrity of the investigating officer in the kidnapping and attempted murder case against Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir was torn to shreds by Johannesburg high court Judge Colin Lamont in a judgment he handed down late last week.

The ruling by Lamont, who is presiding over the main trial, relates to a year-long trial within a trial over the admissibility of a statement in which a Sandton businessperson, Desai Luphondo, implicated Krejcir, one of his co-accused.

In his ruling, Lamont harshly criticised Captain Freddy Ramuhala’s conduct both in court and during his investigation. The judge said Ramu­hala, “at various points in time, gave evidence before this court which was patently false”.

“It is a particularly saddening feature that a senior police officer of this calibre, who is involved with and attached to a senior unit in the police, can conduct himself in this manner in a court of law and also towards persons whom he arrests,” Lamont said.

The judge ruled that the statement Luphondo made to police two days after his and Krejcir’s arrests in November 2013 was inadmissible.

At the start of the main trial earlier last year, Luphondo, whose honesty Lamont also questioned, claimed that he had been assaulted and repeatedly threatened by police to sign the statement.

State failed to give sufficient answers

The premise on which Lamont ultimately made his finding was that the onus to prove that Luphondo’s statement was made freely and fairly rested with the state, which had argued that it rested with the defence.

The state, Lamont said, failed to “discharge” this onus. “There are features of the case which indicate that there was opportunity for assault and/or influence to have taken place … these features remain unexplained in the state case.”

But, he added, he did not accept Luphondo’s evidence and found that he was “a manipulative person who is prepared, if need be, to tell lies”.

The other co-accused are Hawks warrant officers Samuel “Saddam” Maropeng, Jeff Nthoroane and Jan Mofokeng, as well as an alleged serial offender, Siboniso Miya. All six have pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of kidnapping and torturing Bheki Lukhele for information on the whereabouts of his brother, “Doctor”, who allegedly in mid-2013 stole 25kg of tik that belonged to Krejcir.

Ramuhala, an experienced detective, was handed the case in late 2013. A fatal bomb blast at Krejcir’s Bedfordview gold coin exchange, Money Point, led to the creation of a police task team to investigate crimes linked to Krejcir.

He is also facing charges in other cases, including murder.

IO unmoved, despite “objective facts”

During the trial within a trial, Krejcir testified that, when he was arrested, Ramuhala was accompanied by members of the police’s crime intelligence division, a claim that Ramuhala repeatedly denied.

But the judge asked how he could maintain that, “in the face of objective evidence”, including geographical information from vehicle tracking devices and phone calls from cellphone data.

Lamont said: “It is unusual for a witness who, when faced with objective evidence, does not recant or reconsider his evidence.

“There can be no mistake made by the investigating officer when it comes to the denials which he made, in respect of the objectively proven facts, namely that there were ­vehicles present, which he said were not there, and that there were additional people who he said were not there.”

He added later that “no reliance” could be placed on the denials of Ramuhala and his colleagues, who also testified in the trial within a trial, “that there was an assault or influence”.

Krejcir was tortured, court finds

Lamont did find that Krejcir’s claims of torture were true.

A doctor provided a medical report on Krejcir the day after his arrest. Blood tests carried out, Lamont said, proved that Krejcir had been “shocked and tasered repeatedly”.

The judge again rebuked Ramu­hala, who had denied these claims.

Lamont said Ramuhala’s conduct “indicates that, so far from respecting the obligations which he had, he went out of his way to create a situation where the accused could be placed in jeopardy and, insofar as [Krejcir] is concerned, the accused was placed in jeopardy and was injured”.

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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.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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