REVEALED: Murders expose links of Serbian warlord's assassins in SA
The murder of a man in Johannesburg about two weeks ago, said to have been involved in the killing one of Serbia's most feared warlords and who has been on the run for years, has exposed an intricate web of links between the South African underworld, state intelligence and high-profile criminals. Milan Djuricic, said to be an intelligence operative, was apparently gunned down in Strijdom Park in Johannesburg on April 25, just 11 days before South African state security contract agent George Darmanovic was shot dead in Belgrade, Serbia, on May 6. The publication Telegraf reported that Serbian authorities had received fingerprints from their counterparts in Johannesburg and that these confirmed that the man who was murdered in Strijdom Park was indeed Djuricic.
South African police have not named the killed man and on Wednesday an officer told News24 that the murder was under investigation and that no arrests had yet been made. Djuricic was friends with Dobrosav Gavric, also from Serbia, who was driving underworld kingpin and rumoured National Intelligence Agency operative Cyril Beeka when he was murdered in Cape Town on March 21, 2011. Convicted assassins
Both Djuricic and Gavric were wanted in Serbia because they were convicted of assassinating the country's most feared warlord, Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, in 2000. Gavric faces 35 years in jail in Serbia for this, but remains in prison in South Africa following his arrest after Beeka's murder. Darmanovic had known Beeka, as they had operated in the same intelligence circles, and was more recently also in contact with suspected underworld kingpin Nafiz Modack, who faces an extortion charge in Cape Town linked to a nightclub security takeover, and who had been close to Beeka.
Beeka, like Modack, had also been involved in nightclub security. For a detailed breakdown on what has been happening in the underworld nightclub security takeover, see News24's showcase Underworld Unmasked. It is understood that Darmanovic had been in contact with Djuricic before his murder, or had details about the shooting of Djuricic, and that this may have somehow led to him becoming a target and therefore being killed himself.
Before his murder Darmanovic had been probing, among other matters, a figure with suspected links to Cape Town's underworld and who years ago had also known Beeka. In papers handed in at the Western Cape High Court in 2016, relating to Gavric trying to get refugee status in South Africa as he feared being killed in Serbia, it said he had gone to meet a friend, Djuricic, in Belgrade in January 2000 when Raznatovic was killed. READ: Warlord assassin, arms dealer and a mafioso - international fugitives who settled in SA
"He went there to socialise with friends, as it was one of the decent places in Belgrade after the war... While waiting for his friend, he remembered seeing Arkan in the lobby - but not near to him. He had no interest in him and simply ignored him," the papers said.
It said the first he had known about the assassination was when he heard gunshots. "(Gavric) remembered rolling and ducking down to his right side and wanted to reach the exit, which was nearby. He immediately got up and started running towards it.
As he was running towards the door, he was hit in the back by a stray bullet. "The bullet pierced his spine causing serious injury... During this incident, he was spotted by his friend, Milan, with a few other friends who put him in his car and took him to hospital in Loznica.
On arrival in hospital, he lost consciousness due to shock and blood loss." Concealed identity According to the court papers, Gavric, who maintained he had not been involved in Raznatovic's murder, believed that Raznatovic's allies wanted to kill him, leading him to flee Serbia.
He arrived in South Africa in 2007 under the name Sasa Kovacevic. "His reasons for concealing his true identity were that he was afraid that, as soon as his whereabouts became public knowledge, he and his family would be targeted, as he is a fugitive, suspected of killing one of the most infamous men in Europe," it said. "If he were to be sent back to Serbia, Arkan's comrades would kill him as they have done to all those suspected of killing Arkan."
Gavric's true identity emerged after Beeka was murdered in March 2011. "He was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of 9.524 grams of cocaine, fraud - related to him having obtained a driver's licence, passport and a firearm licence, all under the false name of Sasa Kovacevic," the court papers said. Serbia requested his extradition on December 29, 2011.
Gavric, however, is still jailed in South Africa.