Kidnappings rife in SA, ‘syndicates becoming more daring’ warns expert
Johannesburg – Daring and sophisticated syndicates are eyeing multi-million rand targets as organised crime has shifted its attention to kidnapping wealthy business owners for hefty ransoms.
Social activist Yusuf Abramjee has raised the alarm warning that South Africa needs to clamp down on it before it escalates.
“There has been a series of kidnappings over recent years and it appears to be escalating. What is worrying is that these syndicates are becoming more daring and they are clearly sophisticated,” Abramjee said on Wednesday.
Abramjee listed several incidents, saying kidnapping syndicates have been operating for some time – taking victims and demanding ransoms running into tens of millions of rands.
“Many of the victims are forced to pay ransom locally. Other gangs demand payment in foreign countries, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to follow the trail.”
Sources with links to crime intelligence say the kidnappings are linked and are suspected to be the work of foreign syndicates.
News24 understands among those being investigated are some suspects from Pakistan.
Abramjee said he personally assisted a family from Polokwane last year when Anisah Moosa was kidnapped. The gang demanded R3m in cash but were eventually arrested. He said the suspects were all South Africans.
“There have since been a number of similar kidnappings. A businessman in Mafikeng was kidnapped a few weeks ago and freed by police within 24 hours. Arrests were made.”
Range of kidnappings
In another incident, Abramjee said a wealthy Cape Town businessman, Naushad Deshmukh Khan, 46, was kidnapped late last year.
“The kidnappers demanded millions of dollars in cash. Sources say a ransom of $750 000 (R9 722 900) was eventually paid and Khan was freed two months later. No arrests have been made.”
He added: “Khan’s kidnapping was the first in South Africa having the features of an international organised crime syndicate at work. For obvious reasons, some of the information cannot be shared.”
Abramjee said that in July, a prominent Cape Town businessman Zhaun Ahmed, 71, who is still missing, was kidnapped outside his offices in Woodstock.
He added that earlier this month, Pretoria businessman Omar Carrim was kidnapped after leaving his business in the city for home in Laudium. He is also still missing.
“Carrim’s luxury car was found burned on the outskirts of Erasmia, west of Pretoria, the next day.
“Reports say there have been ransom demands for Ahmed and Carrim. But the families are refusing to talk. All they are pleading for is the safe return of their loved ones.”
He added that the kidnapping of Ahmed and Carrim seemed to have been well-organised.
“I will not be surprised that highly-trained former foreign soldiers could be involved as runners.”
According to Abramjee, the kingpins of these syndicates could even be abroad giving orders.
“All they are interested in is getting the hard-earned cash from their victims.”
He said that kidnappings were rife in Maputo for years.
“Scores of business people were kidnapped. While most were freed after paying tens of millions of dollars in ransom, two victims were killed.”
He said police in Mozambique, assisted by international law enforcement agencies, “broke the backbone of these syndicates”.
“Speculation is rife locally that some of these gang members from Maputo may be involved in the latest kidnappings in South Africa. The string of kidnappings has caused much fear and panic, especially amongst South Africa’s Indian community and also foreigners living in SA.”
Police condemn kidnappings
Spokesperson at the Ministry of Police, Vuyo Mhaga, said: “If there seems to be serious problems, we need to meet with police and combat. Inform the police, then they must do a proper investigation.”
Speaking to News24, police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said there was no evidence of kidnapping syndicates operating in SA.
“We of course condemn these sorts of crimes and we are making every effort to educate and create awareness around it. There is no evidence of syndicates operating in SA.”
Naidoo condemned Abramjee for releasing information of ongoing kidnapping matters.
“The releasing of this information is extremely irresponsible, especially if situations are current. We do not talk about kidnappings in a public domain because it can place victims under greater risk and danger.”