A genius with an uncanny ability to retain extremely detailed information, an affable friend who could charm anyone around him and a dangerous double agent who backstabbed, among others, South African intelligence figures.
These are just some of the labels which have been pinned to George Darmanovic, a South African state security contract agent, following his murder in Serbia last Sunday.
Several sources described Darmanovic as a jovial and warm person to his friends, but also as a serial information peddler with extremely powerful contacts.
A few highly-placed sources told News24 that Darmanovic had been viewed in intelligence circles as being part of a parallel intelligence unit.
On Thursday, News24 reported on how former president Jacob Zuma met with Darmanovic, Frans Richards, who previously worked in South African intelligence circles, as well as a fourth man said to be linked to state security work, but whose identity was not immediately apparent, at his official office in Pretoria in 2012 while still head of state.
One source, who asked that his identity not be published given the nature of his work, said that Darmanovic was known for having a good and bad side.
“He was highly intelligent, but he made powerful enemies,” the source said.
Darmanovic was said to have initially gathered intelligence and worked toward furthering South Africa, but his greed for money had influenced how he operated.
The source described Darmanovic as someone who was able to adapt to any social setting, making him a masterful agent able to penetrate an array of groupings and settings.
He said Darmanovic had been extremely skilled at remembering details, for example dates and figures, about incidents.
However, the source also said Darmanovic had a bad side.
‘Top con artist’
On Friday, Mike Bolhuis, a specialist private investigator who has been involved in various probes, including matters related to the underworld, was scathing about Darmanovic, and told News24 that it was surprising that Darmanovic had not been murdered sooner because he had made so many enemies.
“He has screwed over so many authorities in South Africa that he was walking around with a bull’s eye on his back. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword,” Bolhuis said.
“He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing… A top con artist, the worst of the worst.”
Bolhuis described Darmanovic as extremely intelligent and as someone who used this to skilfully con people.
He said Darmanovic would peddle information to certain figures involved in South Africa’s intelligence structures but would then pass the same information on to those who were under investigation, thus giving the suspects the upper hand.
“He was bad news… He was a double agent,” Bolhuis said.
Darmanovic, who was named fully in Serbian media as Gorgija Gorg Darmanovic and who went by the name of George Darmanovich in SA, was gunned down in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday May 6, and died in hospital that afternoon.
It is not clear why he was murdered.
Eleven days before Darmanovic was killed, a man said to be Milan Djuricic, of Serbia, was murdered in Strijdom Park in Johannesburg.
Djuricic was friends with Dobrosav Gavric, also from Serbia, who had been driving underworld kingpin and rumoured National Intelligence Agency operative Cyril Beeka at the time he was murdered in Cape Town on March 21, 2011.
Both Djuricic and Gavric were wanted in Serbia after they were convicted of assassinating the country’s most feared warlord, Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, in 2000.
It is understood that Darmanovic may have had information about Djuricic’s murder or may have been in contact with him before he was killed.
Darmanovic, at the time of his murder, had been investigating a figure suspected of being highly involved in Cape Town’s underworld.
He was also linked to suspected underworld kingpin Nafiz Modack who was facing an extortion charge in Cape Town.
In the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in January, during Modack’s bail application in the extortion case, Charl Kinnear, a police colonel who is investigating fights in clubs, testified: “The person Modack phoned in Serbia is the same person who gave information for the first few chapters of The President’s Keepers.”
Kinnear had been referring to Darmanovic and the critically-acclaimed book by author Jacques Pauw.
Pauw’s book lifted the lid on alleged shady dealings Zuma was allegedly involved in.
– FOLLOW News24 on Twitter