About a year ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Uwe Gemballa. He looked a bit like a pimp from central casting: bleached blond hair, a flashy watch, gold chain. He tuned Porsches. He wanted to import Gemballas to China, and could I help him? Like many China deals, that deal never got off the ground. And as I read the news today, I think to myself: I’m glad it fizzled. Dodged that bullet. Literally.
According to Gemballa’s hometown paper Stuttgarter Zeitung, Police in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, South Africa, found a garbage bag with the badly decomposed remains of a blond man. He had his hands tied to his back, and a bullet hole in his head. A DNA check and a comparison of the teeth confirmed: Gemballa is dead.
The South African Police didn’t just stumble over that bag. They had arrested two people who decided that it’s better to cooperate.
Gemballa has not been heard from since February 8, 2010. He had flown from Dubai to Johannesburg, South Afrika. From Johannesburg, he called his wife. According to some records, he said he had an accident and needed a “larger sum of money.” According to Germany’s BILD-Zeitung, Gemballa had claimed he had been kidnapped, and Christl should transfer a million Euro immediately. Apparently, the second story came closer to the truth. But it wasn’t the whole truth.
According to the Suttgarter Zeitung, Gemballa’s tuning shop was a front for an organized crime syndicate. Gemballa worked with the Czech crime boss Radovan Krejcir, who is wanted by the Czech Police for tax evasion and attempted murder. Krejcir relocated to South Africa instead.
According to a sworn affidavit of Juan Meyer, a former business associate of Krejcir, Gemballa sent hot cars to South Africa. Instead of sending them for money, he sent them with money: The cars were stuffed with cash. Vehicular money laundering. Now I know why Gemballa wanted to know every detail of how cars are imported to China. And now I know why he was not happy to hear what I had told him: “Easy. In those small numbers, the cars are individually checked by the authorities, and approved.”
One day, a tuned Cayenne that was supposed to have a million Euro behind the door trim panel, arrived empty. Krejcir was upset. That put a dent in Gemballas’s business. He was short of money.
Another business associate, Jerome Safi, told Gemballa that he would invest into Gemballa South Africa. Gemballa flew down, was kidnapped, and after his wife Christl hadn’t sent the missing million, he was shot. He probably would have been shot with the million also.
Krejcir is still free in South Africa. An extradition request by the Czech government had been denied by a South African court. Not too long ago, a high South African police official, who supposedly is close to Krejcir, lost his job.
Back in Stuttgart, the news of Gemballas death caused consternation, “however, it didn’t come as a suprise,” writes the paper. He had been written off long ago.