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Phala Phala ‘thief’ led luxury life of diamond teeth, exclusive cars… and SAPS did nothing

EXCLUSIVE A set of bespoke 18kt white gold grillz replete with diamonds, worth R250 000. A set of bespoke 18kt white gold grillz replete with diamonds, worth R250 000.Facebook/Shohreh Custom Jewellery

  • News24 has linked Imanuwela David, a suspect in the burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm, to a string of extravagant purchases.  
  • David, who was arrested by Namibian police in June 2020 for violating immigration laws, spent five months in jail before being deported back to South Africa.  
  • We reveal details of his extravagant dentistry, and his penchant for expensive cars. 

Imanuwela David splurged R250 000 on diamond-studded dental work and dropped millions on luxury cars – some allegedly paid for in crisp wads of US dollars – following a burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Limpopo game farm. 

David and four other men were named by former spy boss Arthur Fraser as those behind the brazen heist at the Phala Phala Wildlife Game Farm near Bela-Bela in February 2020. Fraser alleged that the crew made off with around $4 million (R64 million) which had been hidden in furniture.  

News24 can now reveal details of David’s stunning shift in lifestyle before and after he was arrested and spent time in a Namibian jail, as he went from a security guard posted at a mine to joining a select club of the nouveau riche – flaunting his wealth on Instagram.  

News24 has also established that despite meetings between South African and Namibian police officials, specifically to discuss David and the other alleged suspects, no action was taken. David’s spending spree started before he was jailed in June 2020, and continued after he returned to South Africa in November 2020.  

Diamond dentistry

In April 2021, David took possession of designer dental jewellery called “grillz” – decorative covers which fit over one’s teeth – made famous by hip hop artists. For these, he commissioned Rosebank cosmetic dentist and custom jeweller, Dr Alexander Abedian-Rawhani, more popularly known as “Dr Smile”. ramaphosaImanuwela David.Facebook

“All my grillz clients first come to my dental practice in Johannesburg to ensure their oral and dental health is suitable before I take their scans and measurements,” he told News24 this week.  

The dentist said that David introduced himself as “David Atileni”. 

“We had already decided on the design of the grillz before he came in for his check-up and measurements. Once the deposit was paid, David flew in to come and see me, the work was done, and when his diamond and white gold grillz were ready, I delivered them to him,” he said.  

They were handed over in a hotel room at the OR Tambo International Airport.  

“The grillz were delivered to Atileni in an OR Tambo hotel room before [he] flew back out to Cape Town. He was very happy. I thought him a polite and humble man,” he added.  

ramaphosa

Repeated attempts to contact David via a string of cellphone numbers – as well as visiting previous addresses listed for him – proved unsuccessful.  

David upgraded his smile after he was arrested and detained by Namibian police. According to a statement issued on Friday, David was arrested after crossing the border illegally, and was hit with immigration charges and others relating to his failure to declare high-end watches, and US dollars.  

Namibian police also confirmed that they had contact with police top brass and the Department of Justice, an indicator that David – and the robbery at Phala Phala – was on the radar of both governments.  

“…the two police authorities [Namibia and South Africa] met on 19 June 2020 in what is termed ‘no-man’s land’ near the Noordoewer/Karas region to share operational information pertaining to Imanuwela David and other Namibian nationals suspected to have stolen money in South Africa and fled to Namibia,” the statement reads. 

“The Namibian Police Force identified individuals, bank accounts and various properties including lodges, houses and vehicles suspected to have been purchased with the proceeds of crime and consulted the Prosecutor General to consider a preservation order of the assets.”  

The Department of Justice was consulted on this, Namibian police said, and no response was recieved.  

A guilty plea brought his five-month stint in a remand centre to an end, and he returned to South Africa to live the highlife.  

News24 directed questions to SAPS spokesperson General Mathapelo Peters on whether the burglary at Phala Phala was ever investigated, considering the high-level meeting at a border post.  

“The SAPS has previously confirmed that a case of money laundering, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping had been registered at the Rosebank police station and has now been escalated to the Hawks for investigation. Your questions do have bearing on the investigation into the allegations and, for this reason, we request that you accept that we are not at liberty to give any further detail pending conclusion of the investigation,” she said.  

Fast cars

In another garish show of wealth via his Instagram page, he posted a picture of a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S cabriolet and a Mercedes G63, parked in what looks to be a garage. While the number plate had been removed from the Porsche, the bracket was branded with “M&S Motorlink”.  

The Benoni dealership has since closed, but a former employee – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said that David was a regular customer who only dealt in cash.  Imanuwela DavidA screen capture of an Instagram post published by Imanuwela David.Supplied

“He bought six cars from us and he only worked in cash. When he bought a VW Golf 7R, he paid with $10 000 bundles. They still had the paper straps on them,” he said.  

The former employee said that David used the alias “Colin David” and, over a period of months between the robbery and the closure of the dealership in June 2020, went on a buying spree. These are the cars he allegedly purchased:  

  • Blue VW Golf R7  
  • Blue VW Polo 1.2 TSI 
  • White BMW M5 
  • White Mercedes G63 
  • Grey Mercedes G63 
  • Grey Porsche Carrera 

“He wanted a G63 so we sourced one from a dealership in Vereeniging. Within three days, he had smashed it and came in looking for another. We managed to find one for him and Johannesburg and he took that as a replacement,” he added.  

The collective value of these vehicles is approximately R10 million, based on conservative estimates on year models that appear similar to those purchased.  

Posh Porsche  

The title of the Porsche David was flaunting on his social media platforms remains held by a company called Kirirox, which trades as M&S Motorlink.  

National administration traffic information system data obtained by News24 indicates that ownership of the Porsche was never transferred to David, and the car is, on paper, still owned by the dealership.  

This particular vehicle has a colourful genesis, and before it reached M&S and ultimately David, it was owned by a company named Venmont. This company was central in the bleeding of the VBS Mutual Bank.  

Venmont was controlled Takalani Veronica Mmbi, the personal assistant to VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi. Vermont was extended a R37-million overdraft in the looting heyday.  https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.519.0_en.html#goog_1547547056Play VideoWATCH | Cyril Ramaphosa wants ‘due process’ to unfold before speaking on farm robberyPresident Cyril Ramaphosa remained tight-lipped on the details of the robbery at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo. He told journalists following his reply to the Presidency budget vote speech that he will wait for “due process” to be completed before replying to any media enquiries.

Kirirox director and owner of M&S Motorlink, Saqeeb Shahaboodien, confirmed that he had sold the Porsche to David and that he paid in R900 000 cash and a trade-in (of a Polo TSI, allegedly purchased from the same dealership) before the business shut down. He was able to provide paperwork that the grey G63 was sourced from another dealership for David on 18 March 2020.  

“He [David] contacted me late last year to say he had lost the Natis document so he could change ownership and then he dropped off the map,” he said.  

He strenuously denied doing business in dollars and did not discount the number of cars David bought from him, saying simply that he could not remember, and that all of his paperwork was held by his ex-wife, who he alleged has a restraining order against him.  

“I was going through a divorce and a very difficult time, so I wasn’t really present at my business,” he claimed.  

Called to explain why the title of the Porsche was never transferred into David’s name, Shahaboodien said that David wanted to export the car to Namibia and insisted he would affect the change of ownership. This has never been done. 

Standard practice in the used car industry is for the dealership to move the title of a car from dealer stock into the name of the new buyer. Another standard practice is the exchange of FICA documents, including proof of ID and proof of address. Had proof of ID been obtained, it is unclear why Shahaboodien only knew his client by a false name.    

Money metamorphosis 

David’s lifestyle shift from pauper to prince is borne out by his CV, which he circulated among security companies as he searched for work – before the robbery at Phala Phala.  

His experience is limited to that of a security guard and was posted to a mine in Steelpoort, Limpopo, before the robbery took place.  

Prior to that, he had settled in Middelburg in Mpumalanga. Records indicate he, at one point, lived at a state-run housing project called Hope City with a rental cap of just more than R3 000 per month. Arthur FraserFormer spy boss Arthur Fraser.News24Jan Gerber

Of the five men accused of the robbery by Fraser, David is not the only one who was throwing money around. News24 previously reported that Erkki Shikongo paid R1.775 million in cash for a flat in Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, almost a year to the day after the theft.  

The flat is in an upmarket Table View development called the Sandown Lifestyle Centre, where properties regularly fetch between R1.5 million and R2 million. 

Enter Arthur Fraser 

Fraser lifted the lid on the 2020 farm burglary, publicly accusing Ramaphosa and the head of his Presidential Protection Unit, Wally Rhoode, of money laundering and a complex cover-up.  

He alleged that David, Shikongo and others were traced, kidnapped and interrogated, and then paid R150 000 each for their silence. His claims are being investigated by the Hawks, who met the former spy boss this week to go through his statement. 

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