Twists aplenty in gambling den probe
A seedy gambling den in Grahamstown has been linked to alleged wife killer Christopher Panayiotou, his father and two other key players in the sensational murder trial.
Allegations of how an internet cafe was used as a front for an illegal gambling joint and how thousands of rands in cash was transported off the premises as often as once a week emerged in documents before the Grahamstown High Court.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) launched an application to have what they say is the proceeds of crime forfeited to the state.
Court papers spell out how Christopher, 30, his father, Costa, a former PE bank manager and the friend who wiped Christopher’s phone clean after Jayde’s murder in April 2015 allegedly played a role in the operation from behind the scenes.
At all times the Panayiotous, IT expert Donovan Vosloo and his father, Phillip, ensured their hands were clean.
While young Grahamstown resident Bulelani Gaqa is listed as the sole director of Ruskopoint (Pty) Ltd, trading as The Old Mill Gaming Centre, his supposed employee said she had never even heard of him.
Contacted for comment on Friday (07/04/17), Gaqa surprisingly referred all questions to Phillip Vosloo.
Court documents allege that a month before the police swooped on the grungy building in Dundas Road, confiscating cash and computers – a raid which was later found by a court to be unlawful – Donovan Vosloo had allegedly adapted the computers to incorporate the services of an internet cafe.
Employee Mevelyn Williams, who was arrested amid the chaos of the raid on February 23 last year, said in the beginning Donovan travelled to Grahamstown every Sunday to collect the proceeds, ranging from R10 000 to R30 000 a week.
At a later stage, he started collecting the cash on a biweekly basis, and thereafter collection was done sporadically, she claimed.
Donovan said on Friday that there were many rumours circulating. He then referred questions to attorney Basil Vardakos.
Vardakos said: “The judicial process shall be undermined if the Vosloos replied to the incriminating questions that you have forwarded to them while the matter is sub judice.”
The startling allegations emerged as employees at the Panayiotous’ OK Grocer in Algoa Park received notice on March 31 that the business had been sold to SPAR, with the official takeover next month.
The letter seen by Weekend Post reads: “SPAR have bought us out . . . it was not a decision we took lightly but certain circumstances pushed us into the decision to sell.”
A day before that, a notice advertising the sale in terms of the Insolvency Act was placed in two local newspapers.
Christopher had a 10% share in the OK, while Costa and an uncle in Johannesburg, Sox Argyrou, were the majority shareholders.
Last year, Christopher sold his two homes – one in Kabega Park, where he lived with Jayde, 29, and the luxury Lovemore Heights house which they bought for R2.2-million shortly before her death.
The murder trial resumes on April 19.
In an affidavit, Gaqa, 33, confirmed his role as sole director of Ruskopoint. He denied that any gambling took place on the premises.
But Williams, who was employed there for more than a year, said she had never seen or even heard of Gaqa.
Similarly, in the murder trial in November last year, PE resident Laurika Booi had told the court that Christopher registered his Inet Lounge in the Cotswold shopping centre complex in her name.
She claimed the business was a gambling den, fronted as an internet cafe.
Prosecutor Marius Stander revealed at the time that the state believed the money allegedly used to pay the suspected hitmen could have come from a gambling joint.
AFU lawyer Marius Wolmarans said while Gaqa denied that any gambling took place at The Old Mill, he was “surprisingly quiet” about the alleged roles of the Panayiotous or the Vosloos.
The AFU believes Phillip helped manage the establishment, while Costa signed the lease agreement with the landlord.
Williams, meanwhile, said she was interviewed at the premises by both Donovan and Christopher in early 2015.
She was hired after her job interview and never had any further communication with Christopher.
“I only realised who he was when, after his arrest in PE, pictures of him appeared in the news in connection with the pending case,” she said.
Costa on Friday confirmed signing the lease and said he had applied for a gambling licence more than three years ago.
“So what? What does it have to do with you?” he asked, before referring questions to lawyer Alwyn Griebenow.
Griebenow declined to comment.
Williams, meanwhile, said that when she reported for duty she would insert a flash stick into the main controlling computer, which would then activate the other computers for gambling to take place.
“If I was on duty I had a key for the safe and all the money taken from clients that gambled was placed in the said safe.”
She said she suspected Donovan was linked to the system from PE because he was always aware of how much money had been taken from gamblers and would phone to quiz staff if there was a shortfall.
Depending on the time of the month or how many gamblers came in, the business collected up to R12 000 a day.
“About a month prior to the search warrant being executed by the SA Police Service, the computers were adapted in order to provide internet facilities.”
Williams said while the gambling continued in conjunction with the internet cafe, she was not aware of a single person who had paid to use the internet.
She said at some stage she informed Donovan that the gambling board had notified her that they did not have a gambling licence and that the business was therefore operating illegally, but he assured her that the issue had been resolved.
Investigating officer Captain Jurgens Gouws said he had received a flash stick from Williams during the raid.
On further investigation, he found an online gambling program had allegedly been loaded onto the disc, which was now being analysed by the Cyber Crime Unit.
In September the Grahamstown High Court set aside the search warrant after finding it to be defective.
Judge Murray Lowe ordered the AFU to return the computers and about R14 000 in cash seized from the premises, subject to a preservation or forfeiture order.
While the AFU now wants the assets forfeited to the state in accordance with the Proceeds of Organised Crime Act, lawyers for Ruskopoint argued that their case fell short in proving any illegal activity.
Final argument will be heard on June 22.
Vardakos said he represented Ruskopoint and maintained – as stated in court papers – that there was no illegal gambling activity at its premises.
He said the September judgment seriously affected the integrity of the evidence now advanced by the state.
“Furthermore, the matter is still under judicial consideration and up and until there is a finding made on the matter, it cannot be expected that the Vosloos in these circumstances provide any reply to your questions at this stage of the proceedings.”