Suspected Murderer Louka Remanded Until Next Court Hearing, Extradition Postponed
George Louka, suspected of murdering South African strip-club owner Lolly Jackson, has been remanded in custody by Limassol Criminal Court until April 9th when there will be a new hearing to extradite him back to Pretoria.
Prosecutor Elena Sophocleous was unable to submit her case against Louka (pictured right) today because she received the South African documents on CDRom; clearly a technology that is not accepted by the courts here. Instead, she asked for a postponement until the documents can be delivered in hard copy.
Defender Sofronis Sofroniou argued that it was not the wanted man's fault that the prosecutor was not ready and that he should be released on bail or with a family member's guarantee until the next court date.
Sophocleous responded by saying that Louka was a flight risk, with Sofroniou answering that he would turn in his passport and Cypriot ID. The prosecutor was unconvinced, saying that Louka could easily decide to run via north Cyprus or have hidden travel documents he has not turned over to police.
The defence also tried to argue that Interpol Pretoria's extradition application was illegal since it was processed through Interpol Nicosia instead of through the Ministry of Justice. Sofroniou argued that the case against his client was not substantiated.
After hearing the prosecution and defence, the judge said that the crime Louka allegedly committed in South Africa was so serious that it outweighed the defence's arguments for releasing the suspect, and remanded him in custody until the next hearing.
Louka, a stolidly built, middle-aged man with large hands, a large pot belly and a belligerent, threatening attitude, was reprimanded several times by the judge and his own lawyer for interrupting the proceedings and for turning his back on Judge Elena Ephraim. His sister, brother-in-law, wife, father and several friends were present during the hearing, his mother died many years ago.
Cyprus detectives have been liaising with South African investigators to locate George Louka - aka George Smith - since he disappeared after Jackson's murder on May 3rd, 2010. He was tracked down on March 20th, 2012 and arrested in Limassol where he was living on the island with his wife and four children. Louka could not leave the island after Interpol red-flagged his arrest warrant from South Africa.
The case is linked to a money laundering case in the High Court in Johannesburg which implicated the ex-chief representative of Laiki Bank in a scheme involving Jackson.
Laiki Bank closed its branches in South Africa in 2008, however, its chief representative officer - Alekos Panayi - explosed the money-laundering scheme in a sworn affidavit, said the TimesLive.co.za in an article.
Panayi was deeply involved in the scheme and said that South African Greek businessman Lolly Jackson (pictured right) would provide him with large sums of cash which he would collect from his home. He would then match the amounts he received with account holders who required cash, who would take the money and pay Jackson back in foreign bank accounts.
Weeks before he was gunned down in a friend's house, Jackson said that his crony Louka had been paid 100,000 Rand to kill him. After the murder, Louka promised to turn himself into police but vanished from South Africa.
The Cyprus and South African police forces signed an agreement in the summer of 2010 to coordinate their fight against organised crime, but the lack of a formal extradition treaty between the two countries has been an obstacle in bringing Louka back to South Africa.
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