Cape Town - The arrest of two Mozambicans along with two South Africans for the kidnapping of businessman and Good Hope Construction founder Ismail Rajah has fuelled suspicions that a Mozambican kidnapping syndicate is targeting prominent local business owners.
Rajah, 69, who was kidnapped outside his business premises in Parow on March 9, was reunited with his family on Wednesday after a “midnight take-down operation” to rescue him from his captors at a house in Khayelitsha, said police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe.
Although a ransom was requested soon after his kidnapping, no money was paid during his 111 days in captivity.
“Following his kidnapping, a ransom demand was made to his family. It is reported that the family were already en route to Dubai to expedite the ransom payment when the SAPS National Anti-Kidnapping Task Team was roped in to investigate.
The team immediately mobilised the special task force, organised crime investigators, crime scene experts, and collaborated with private security.
“Just after midnight on Wednesday, the team pounced on an identified address and rescued the victim. Four men, two Mozambican nationals and two South Africans between the ages of 30 and 38 years old were apprehended,” said Mathe.
Officers from the SAPS National Counter Intelligence (Anti- Kidnapping Task Team), South African Special Task Force and provincial organised crime unit, among others, confiscated cellphones and various equipment on suspicion of it having been utilised by the suspects during the commission of the crime. The men were expected to appear in court on Thursday.
Police have urged the public to immediately report kidnappings “to enable police to investigate, effect arrests and rescue victims”, Mathe said.
Businessman Luqman Kazi, from L:enasia in Gauteng, was safely reunited with his family three days after he was kidnapped in March. Officers pounced on four identified addresses on March 17, including one in Lawley where they found Kazi, seized a 9mm unlicensed firearm and arrested three suspects. At the other addresses in Lenasia, the team arrested three more suspects, including a 43-year-old Mozambican national believed to be the mastermind behind a number of kidnapping cases in Gauteng.
Police seized R6 million cash during the intensive operation.
In another unrelated kidnapping case, an intelligence-driven operation led to the rescue of four Bangladesh nationals in Bertrams, Johannesburg, earlier this year. Two Ethiopian nationals were arrested for the kidnapping in Musina, Limpopo, on March 10.
Attempts to get comment from the Rajah family were unsuccessful by deadline, but anti-crime activist Hanif Loonat, a friend of Rajah, said: “I have mixed feelings but am very happy and excited that Rajah was reunited with his family.
“I am unhappy that he had to become a victim of this kidnapping at a time when his business was also going through some difficulty. We have to realise that the SAPS is not properly geared-up to deal with this trans-international (kidnapping) syndicate.
This syndicate has its roots in Mozambique (and some suspects have gone rogue) but they continue to ply their trade in South Africa. I believe these kidnappings will go on for some time,” said Loonat.
Loonat confirmed a ransom request that was made to the family shortly after the kidnapping but would not disclose the amount requested.
The Cape Times understands that the alleged kidnappers were to be paid about R8m.
“There is definitely big money involved but we cannot divulge that information for safety reasons,” said Loonat.
Cravenby Cricket Club, sponsored by Rajah’s company Good Hope Construction, expressed their gratitude for his return.
“From Goodhope Construction Cravenby Cricket Club, we would like to thank everyone for keeping Mr Rajah in your duas and prayers for his safe return to his loved ones,” a post on social media read.
Questions about possible links between kidnappings of Rajah and the safe return of Shireen Essop were not answered by police.
Essop was allegedly kidnapped on May 23 while driving a white Toyota on Weltevreden Road near Philippi. She was on her way home from work when she was accosted.
Meanwhile, there is still no trace of the owner of Giant Sweets & Sweets for Africa, Mohammed Noor Karriem, 65, who was allegedly kidnapped outside of his business in Epping on September 23, 2019.