Explainer: Why are the globe's most wanted criminals seeking refuge in SA?

Explainer: Why are the globe's most wanted criminals seeking refuge in SA?

Among the crazy political fist fights, name calling and chaos, South Africa largely missed the news that an international 'most wanted' criminal was seeking refuge right here in sunny Mzansi. 'Nogal' in the posh suburb of Sandton too. But why do they choose South Africa?

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Earlier this week, the SAPS barged into the Sandton flat where they took Danish national, Anna Britta Nielsen, 64, into custody.

Nielsen had been on Denmark's most wanted criminal list and was in the process of negotiating to hand herself over to the police. However, when she didn't, the police stepped in.

A simple change of hair colour and a little weight loss went a long way for Nielsen, who was unrecognisable.

Why is Nielsen a wanted criminal in Denmark?

Nielsen and Jimmy Hayat, her son, are wanted for R247 million fraud.

According to a News24 report, Nielsen was a staff member at the Danish Ministry for Social Affairs for more than four decades.

Nielsen stands accused of transferring state funds, meant for the country's most vulnerable, to her own account between 2002 and this year.

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Hayat, who was caught by SAPS while trying to leave South Africa via OR International Airport, was found in possession of R5000 cash, as well as two diamonds in his bag.

Cops also found R600k in Nielsen's possession when they arrested her.

How did the pair land up in South Africa?

About six weeks ago, Danish authorities found out about the massive fraud.

However, the pair spent a lovely four weeks in South Africa before Mzansi's own authorities were alerted to their presence here.

According to Bheki Cele, SA's Police Minister, local authorities were notified about the pair being in South Africe just two weeks ago.

Why is it not making news headlines in South Africa?

Did it not make major news headlines in South Africa because as South Africans, were just so desensitized to fraud and corruption? Or is there just so much else happening?

In Denmark, the fraud case has been major news. For the Danes, a crime of this nature is not common place, whereas in SA, we're struggling to keep up with who has been implicated now.

Even our own police officers are appearing in court on corruption charges.

Senior officers, which include Gauteng's provincial commissioner, have appeared in court on carges of corruption.

How does Nielsen's case compare to South Africa's cases of corruption?

For the Danish, Nielsen's case is the symbol of a decline in confidence in trusted organisations, writes columist, Mandy Wiener.

In South Africa, the same rings true for how citizens are losing confidence in organisations that are supposed to uphold law and order.

Why did they choose South Africa as their safe haven?

While the police acted quickly in arresting the pair, the question on everyone's lips now is why Nielsen and Hayat chose Mzansi as their hiding spot.

Briefly.co.za gathered that sources close to the case said Nielsen visited South Africa shortly after her husband died.

It's believed she fell in love with South Africa. Since her first visit, Nielsen purchased a number of properties here.

However, the are other reasons why the world's most wanted criminals choose South Africa as their hiding spots.

Here, they can live normal lives, go undetected, give themselves new names and live comfortably... without local police even batting an eye.

Bulgarian Vili Georgiev - convicted murderer

In a column written on News24, Wiener writes about Vili Georgiev, a Bulgarian man who was convicted of murdering a pharmacy student in a nightclub attack in Sophia.

Georgiev was arrested in the Eastern Cape.

But only after he was on the run for fourt years. The Hawks finally arrested him in Amsterdamhoek.

In 2014, Georgiev absconded when he was set to start his 18-year jail term for the student's murder.

In Bulgaria, every news outlet reported on Georgiev, which also sparked mass protests.

Despite being a convicted killer, Georgiev was granted bail in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court. It was reported he was given bail, because his extradition is underway.

Radovan Krejcir and his cronies

Let's not forget Czech fugitive, Radovan Krejcir, who has called SA home for several decades.

While Krejcir didn't try to fly under the radar, many other criminals he knew were flying seemingly under SA authorities' radars.

Jan Charvat, Krejcir's countryman, was on the Czech Republic's most wanted list. But, SA authorities only found out who Charvat was when he was killed during an explosion at Krejcir's Money Point offices.

Serbian Dobrosov Gavric, aka the 'Arkan Slayer

Probably one of the most surprising cases was that of Dobrosov Gavric, a Serbian who was also known as the 'Arkan Slayer.'

Gavric had official South African identity documents, under the fake name Sasha Kovacevic. With his fake ID and fake name, Gavric bought properties, businesses and lived in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

He was only identified as being Gavric when he was driving security boss, Cyril Beeka, during his assassination in 2011 and was wounded in the process.

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Serbians, Milan 'Miki' Duricic and Darko Kulic

Duricic and Kulic had ties to organised crime and a history in paramilitary organisations, writes Wiener.

Both were shot in apparent hits in Johannesburg.

Duricic, along with Gavric, was wanted in Serbia for the murder of Serbian warlord, Zeljko 'Arkan' Razatovic 18 years ago.

In July, Darko Kulic, an alleged mobster, was murdered. It's believed he fought in the Serbian Guard. Wiener also reports he served 12 years behind bars for killing a rival mobster.

He then fled to South Africa.

Experts believe there are several reasons why SA is a prime spot for criminals

Experts suggest criminals choose Mzansi as their preferred destination because:

1. Because of our high standard of living;

2. Advance banking and business systems;

3. Coupled with the ineffectiveness of law enforcement and its susceptibility to corruption.

Bheki Cele tells international criminals SA is closed for their type of 'business'

After Nielsen and Hayat's arrest, minister Bheki Cele said he hoped their arrests would serve as a warning to others wanted to use South Africa to get away from the law.

Cele said arrests like these serve as a warning to others who commit crimes and look for refuge in South Africa: "South Africa is not a safe haven for criminals.".

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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