Port Elizabeth – Murder accused Christopher Panayiotou needed at least R750 000 to open sports bars and betting businesses across the Eastern Cape, the High Court in Port Elizabeth heard on Wednesday.
Panayiotou’s former business partner, Kevin Neil McLoughlin, told the court that he and Panayiotou had plans to set up five sports bars with gambling machines: one each in Port Elizabeth, East London and Butterworth, and two in Mthatha.
Property leases had already been signed, but they needed about R1.8m for the businesses to get off the ground. The costs consisted of around R300 000 per venue for setting them up, and a further R60 000 per venue for the gambling licence.
During cross-examination, Terry Price, for Panayiotou, pointed out that the machine supplier covered the gambling licence costs, and would be recouped out of the businesses once they were operational. McLoughlin could not confirm this, as Panayiotou had dealt with those arrangements.
Without the gambling licences, the total costs came to R1.5m, which would require an investment of R750 000 per person.
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McLoughlin told the court that, at the time of Panayiotou’s arrest, the pair had not yet received the licences to officially begin operations. Subsequently, Panayiotou resigned as a partner.
McLoughlin tried to withdraw the licence applications which had already been submitted, but ended up continuing with the business plan with new partners.
Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko are on trial on charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing, and killing Jayde on April 21, 2015. They pleaded not guilty. The alleged hitman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, died in September.
Jayde Panayiotou, 29, was abducted outside her home in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth, while waiting for her lift to Riebeeck Park High School on Tuesday, April 21. She was found shot dead in a veld outside KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage, the following day.
The State alleges Panayiotou was under financial pressure, and that this may have played a role in the murder.
‘Hardly kept head above water’
During his bail application at the magistrate’s court last year, investigating officer Lieutenant Rhynhardt “Kanna” Swanepoel said in an affidavit that Panayiotou was in financial difficulty and was having an affair.
“He hardly managed to keep head above water,” prosecutor Marius Stander read from the document.
He was going into a further R2.2m debt to buy a house for himself and Jayde in Lovemore Heights, which meant it would be impossible for him to keep both his mistress and wife happy.
“He was being forced into creating more debt, so he decided to have the deceased killed, not to gain financially, but to curtail his ever-increasing debt.”
Panayiotou, 28, denied this in his responding affidavit. He submitted a list of assets and liabilities, which showed his net worth exceeded R3m.