DRUG LORDS' FATAL MISTAKE
Johannesburg - Engelezi Mngomezulu was born poor in rural Mpumalanga. But
this week, when police raided his houses and attached property, it was the
coming down of a very rich man.
From a young boy in deep rural Daggakraal to the alleged Sandton
multimillion-rand drug kingpin with international links, Mngomezulu's
transformation was complete. His major undoing was simple though: impulsive
spending, combined with greed.
This former Soweto taxi driver could spend big: numerous houses in plush
suburbs, mostly bought in sets of three for his three kids; children in the
same Swiss school as the Swiss president's children; and a travel bill for
him and his wife that ran up to R370 000 in just over a year.
Police believe his drug empire straddled Swaziland, Taipei, China, South
Africa, and possibly Dubai.
He built the empire in just five years, and it seemed like a classic case
of rags to riches, until greed set in and the hands of the law were waiting.
Investigating officer Superintendent Dumisani Jwara says in an affidavit
that the break came when he received information from an informer that
Mngomezulu was allegedly involved with a network specialising in the
manufacturing and distribution of drugs - nationally and beyond.
The informer was among a group that was allegedly poorly paid by Mngomezulu.
Embittered, the informer spilt the beans, resulting in Jwara's team
compiling a profile of the suspect.
It was during the profiling that they uncovered the "opulence" and
"free-spirited spending" that suggested the filthy rich Mngomezulu could be
a big fish.
"As we profiled him, we discovered that he made one major mistake: he did
not have a single legitimate business that could be used as cover to
legitimise the proceeds from crime," said a source.
When confronted by police, Mngomezulu allegedly claimed that he made his
millions from renting out his properties. But the police questioned how he
got the properties in the first place, almost half of which were bought
without initial bonds.
Fly to London for shopping
The puzzle then was how he could afford to buy property at the rate he did,
keep children at expensive schools abroad, collect exorbitant artefacts,
and live the life of a king, often flying to London for shopping.
On top of that, he operated 47 bank accounts with his wife, with three of
them based in foreign countries.
That Mngomezulu wanted the best for his children was apparent in the manner
he chose property.
Shortly before his arrest, Mngomezulu engaged attorneys Strauss Sher to
facilitate the purchase of three properties for R6m each at a development
known as the Michaelangelo Towers in Sandton.
Prior to that, he bought three units in Sandown for R650 000 each.
In November 1997, he bought three properties at St James Court,
Morningside, for R500 000 each.
Makhosini Nkosi, of the National Prosecuting Authority, in a statement on
behalf of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, said police investigators believed
there was sufficient grounds to believe that Mngomezulu sustained his
lavish life from the proceeds of drugs.
At the time of his arrest, police found a quotation for the purchase of a
tablet machine from Taipei in Taiwan.
The type of Mandrax powder found at his Sandton home-turned-factory would
mostly be sourced from China or Taiwan, police say.
Mngomezulu was previously linked to a syndicate that imported dagga from
Swaziland to SA.