Kidnappings for ransom – part one: from Mozambique with greed
SA ‘is losing war on kidnapping because of corruption and infighting in Crime Intelligence’
The son of a Mozambican mining magnate and his childhood friend are allegedly part of a network of wealthy Mozambicans orchestrating SA’s high-profile kidnappings, assisted by corrupt police officers and cash-in-transit robbers.
A TimesLIVE investigation has established that a central feature in SA’s major kidnapping gangs are teams of police officers from crime intelligence, the Hawks, traffic departments and flying squads who provide information, uniforms, weapons and facilitate escapes on major road networks or conduct fake roadblocks to kidnap victims.
Police and state intelligence sources, specialising in financial crime investigations, estimate that since 2017 kidnappers have secured more than R750m in ransoms.
This has allegedly been used to purchase homes in lifestyle estates, luxury vehicles, jewellery and pay gangsters and police to commit more kidnappings and quash investigations.
In an exclusive interview, a Bangladeshi man has told TimesLIVE Video about his recent kidnapping ordeal and rescue. Shabuj Mia is one of 10 men rescued by police on February 10. He was held against his will in a room at a lodge in Johannesburg, while his captors demanded money from his family. A police officer has been arrested and charged in connection with the case, along with two other men. The trio appeared on kidnapping, extortion and corruption charges in the Polokwane magistrate’s court on February 17 2022. #Kidnapping #Ransom #Hostage Subscribe to TimesLIVE Video here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive Comment Moderation Policy: https://www.timeslive.co.za/comments/
A TimesLIVE investigation has mapped how, since 2017, dozens of SA and foreign kidnapping syndicates have emerged from splits within Mozambican kidnapping gangs and new organised crime groups muscling in on the country’s kidnapping scene.
Police sources say the gangs are technologically sophisticated and operate within transnational criminal networks in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“These guys are well-resourced and financed. They have state-of-the-art cellphone technology to mask their locations, identities and voices. Their software generates fake WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram numbers used in ransom negotiations.
“Not only do kidnappers have access to the latest technology, but they also have tons of crooked cops on their books. We work with outdated cellphone tracking technology and have to rely on private investigators so we can solve these crimes,” says a police source.
A Crime Intelligence (CI) source said most ransoms are paid offshore through cryptocurrencies and Hawala. “The ransoms go to Dubai because, until now, we had limited law-enforcement joint cooperation agreements with the UAE. Once there, there was nothing we could do to track or retrieve it.”
He said the kidnapping syndicates use informants within Dubai-based banks to obtain information on wealthy SA clients for syndicates.
“These victims are often people operating large cash businesses, some of whom are tax dodgers or involved in illicit businesses like cigarette smuggling.”
International country risk analysts and Hollard Insurance warn that SA’s worsening political and economic climate, and lack of security, have created a “thriving kidnapping environment”.
Before 2017, when SA’s mega kidnappings for ransom first spiked, syndicates numbered less than a handful.
Information TimesLIVE has gathered reveals that seven mega kidnapping syndicates now operating in SA are linked to transnational organised crime syndicates in Mozambique and Pakistan.
Mega kidnapping syndicates kidnap and ransom victims for R25m and more.
There are at least six smaller syndicates that ransom their victims for between R1m and R15m, and scores of copycat gangs, estimated at more than 30, ransoming victims for between R5,000 and R500,000.
All rely on corrupt police.
Police spokesperson Col Athlenda Mathe said since 2017 13 law-enforcement officers had been arrested for kidnapping.
SA’s mega kidnapping syndicates are reportedly run by wealthy Mozambican and Pakistani transnational organised crime gangs, and violent SA career criminals, including CIT robbers and former Rolex gang members.
A crime intelligence officer said: “Mega syndicates are very professional. They don’t go out to deliberately kill their victims, unlike the copycat gangs, who often have little patience for tough ransom negotiations.”
Police sources say the SA-run syndicates responsible for mega kidnappings spawned from criminal networks of convicted murderer and Mozambican kidnapping kingpin Momade “Nini” Satar.
One of his alleged lieutenants is reportedly the former son-in-law of “international drug kingpin” Mohamed Bachir Sulema, aka MBS.
Satar’s “lieutenant” was arrested in SA in 2017 with three fake passports. The outcome of his criminal case is unknown and he continues to live in Gauteng.
In 2010 US president Barack Obama declared MBS a “drug kingpin” and ordered the US Treasury to impose sanctions on his business empire.
Police sources say SA-based gangs allegedly linked to Satar orchestrated SA’s first mega kidnappings, including those of Cape Town businessmen Liyaqat Parker and Sadeck Zhaun Ahmed, Pretoria businessman Omar Carrim, Mozambicans Haneef Mohammed and Githa Samgi, and Ethiopian Demmis Botho. They remain unsolved.
Botho and Mohammed, whose businesses were based in Johannesburg, and Samgi were all allegedly held at the same house in Klipriver, Gauteng. Police discovered the house and raided it, arresting four people allegedly linked to the trio’s kidnapping. Botho has never been found and is presumed dead.
Samgi was kidnapped outside her Mbombela golf estate in October 2019 while going to fetch her daughter from school. She was found dead on the N4 in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, in February 2020, allegedly for double-crossing a Maputo businessman in a Hawala deal.
She operated a property and money exchange business in Maputo.
Sources with knowledge of the Samgi investigation said Mohammed, after he was freed, told police he heard Samgi being tortured in a room next to his.
“He refuses to cooperate with us on her case. Victims know what happens if you speak. Haneef heard first-hand. When you mess with their pockets they kill you, and take the money you owe them.
“Most of these kidnappings are linked to dodgy business deals, like export VAT scams and Hawala, which go wrong.”
On November 8 2019 Mozambican businessman Artur Mondlane and “childhood friend” Omega Temba were at the gym in Gauteng’s Jackal Creek Golf Estate.
On that day, Temba, son of Mozambican mining baron Fernando Jardim, and Mondlane, the child of a humble “family of farmers”, were unaware police had rescued their alleged hostage, KwaZulu-Natal businesswoman Sandra Moonsamy, from a house in Emalahleni.
As the duo walked out of the gym police nabbed them.
In the operation officers confiscated five luxury vehicles, including a Mercedes-Benz AMG C63, Mercedes Brabus 700 and Mercedes-Benz AMG C43, valued at R15m.
Mondlane and Temba, known in his Mozambican passport as Carlos Manuel Jardim Junior, are allegedly among members of a network of Mozambican kidnapping syndicates terrorising SA’s business communities.
The duo and their co-accused, Dumisani Hadebe and Lucas Ndlovu, are awaiting trial at the Kokstad super-maximum security prison.
Hadebe and Ndlovu were arrested at the house where Moonsamy was found chained.
The four appeared in the Durban high court on February 2 on charges of kidnapping, robbery and attempted extortion. Their trial started on Monday.
Moonsamy, daughter of multibillionaire logistics tycoons Lutchmee and Poonsamy Naicker, is among hundreds of business owners who have been kidnapped in SA.
Tembe and Mondlane are among several Mozambicans arrested for kidnappings here.
Others include Alfredo Jeffrey Hobyane.
All are appearing in courts in February in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Their cases and those of their co-accused relate to the kidnappings of, among others, Moonsamy, Gauteng businessmen Ismail Akoonjee and Feroz Khan, and 11-year-old Maha Qassim, daughter of wealthy Pakistani hotelier Uwais Maha.
Hobyane was arrested on December 31 2021 in Maputo for Qassim’s kidnapping in a joint SA-Mozambique police operation. He was found with three cellphones containing alleged voice notes with ransom demands for Maha’s release. He is fighting his extradition in Mozambique, according to Gauteng National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane.
She said Hobyane’s co-accused, Ayanda Kekana and Fortune “Gaddafi” Ndlovu, were arrested in December in Johannesburg and appeared in court on January 6.
Mondlane’s lawyer, Garry Bell, confirmed Mondlane was charged with kidnapping, but denied he is part of a kidnapping syndicate.
“Mondlane’s family are mostly farmers, leading perfectly normal lives”.
Bell said Temba and Mondlane are childhood friends.
Mondlane abandoned his bail application after the state brought international arrest warrants against him and Temba.
Bell said the validity of the warrant is in dispute.
Temba is director of the Pretoria-based vehicle importation business Glovane Services, which imports car parts from Ukraine. He owns a partially built property at the upmarket Xanadu Nature Estate in Hartbeespoort, North West.
When TimesLIVE pressed the buzzer at the estate entrance, the name “Junior” reflected on the keypad.
KwaZulu-Natal NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson said Temba, Mondlane, Ndlovu and Hadebe were accused of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and attempted extortion, with Mondlane and Tembe also charged with entering or remaining in the SA without a valid permit.
Adv Nxolisi Nxasana, representing Hadebe and Temba, declined to respond to detailed questions.
The arrests of the Mozambicans and their SA accomplices are among hundreds police investigating kidnappings have made.
Since 2017 police teams have arrested more than 300 suspects and seized more than R350m in luxury items, military firearms, ammunition and cellphone signal jammers and trackers.
But sources fear that despite the successes police are losing the battle because of corruption and infighting for control of kidnapping investigations, with vicious smear campaigns being waged within the SAPS to discredit investigators.
Driving the campaigns, which are fought through proxies, including private security companies, are the rewards families often offer for speedy arrests and convictions.
According to a Hawks source, “police kidnapping investigators, who include national organised crime, serious and violent crime detectives, crime intelligence agents and the Hawks, have scored huge success against kidnappings since 2017. But we are losing the bloody war because of corruption and infighting among different Crime Intelligence units who want control of kidnapping investigations.
“The infighting is about power and senior officers jostling for control of CI. There are big fights between the commanders of counter intelligence section and the multidisciplinary organised crime section,” said the source.
TimesLIVE has learnt an investigation into a Gauteng Hawala operator, which was conducted by the Hawks and CI, was allegedly quashed in 2019 after the payment of a R10m bribe.
“The guy is linked to five ransom payments amounting to R117m. The investigation was finally reopened late last year,” said a CI source.
Hawala is an eastern informal trust-based money transfer system involving money brokers. While used for legitimate transfers, it is also used illegitimately to move money for tax evasion and financing criminal activities.
A lawyer who conducted watching briefs on kidnapping for ransom cases on behalf of victims says Hawala enables ransom payments as it circumvents the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica), which is designed to maintain the trace of money.
“You give a person money in Midrand and it’s available within hours in Pakistan, without it actually leaving SA. Hawala circumvents exchange controls and laws relating to money transfers. The trust comes from both people, who, in all likelihood, have interest in each other’s businesses here and in Pakistan.”
As long as these fights and corruption continue, so too will the kidnappings.
Among SA’s recently kidnapped businessmen is Lenasia property owner and money lender Yaseen Bhiku, who was kidnapped in January outside his home.
The Indian national owns multiple Gauteng properties and Ghujrat Trading, which distributes cigarettes for Gold Leaf Tobacco.
He was released on February 10 after a R25m ransom was allegedly paid in Dubai. His wife, Fahima, failed to respond to requests for comment. It is unknown if he is cooperating with police.
Another CI source said while working closely with international crime organisations, SA’s mega kidnapping gangs branched out on their own in 2018 after realising how much money they could make.
“This sparked SA’s four-year kidnapping boom.”
The Hawks officer described the situation here as “total madness”.
SAPS and Hawks sources say while they receive on average three kidnapping reports every two weeks, committed mainly by copycat syndicates, unreported cases are quadruple that.
An intelligence source says the highest number of kidnappings to occur in any period was in October 2021.
“The spike happened after Pakistani national and kidnapping kingpin Raza Hassan Anwar was released from Johannesburg prison on bail.
“Between October 13 and October 24 12 Indian, Ethiopian and Somali businessmen were kidnapped by his syndicate. Anwar is linked to kidnappings from 2017.”
He was released on bail in October 2021 while awaiting trial for the kidnapping of an Indian businessman in Johannesburg in 2018, after his victim died of Covid-19.
Anwar was shot dead in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, on December 2 2021. At the time he was murdered police had, through a series of raids, arrested several alleged kidnappers, including SAPS officers.
Among them was former Hawks and CI officer Dineo Sekobi and Gauteng railway police officer Sgt Gerald “Skero” Mabuela.
Temba’s father, Fernando Jardim, known as Fernando Mauai, owns Mozambican mining company Fema Minerals, the business address of which is registered as Jackal’s Creek Estate. It is here the police seized the luxury vehicles.
Jardim confirmed he owned Fema Minerals, “which has some mines in Mozambique”.
He said he settled the unpaid levies on Tembe’s Xanadu home, which estate management placed on auction.
After a bidder failed to pay for the property Jardim made a payment arrangement to settle the outstanding debts. He said he had visited Tembe in prison and was shocked by the allegations.