Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Durban - The arrest of South African businessman Zunaid Moti by German authorities was based on “spurious and fraudulent claims” as part of a Russian mob strategy to “extort substantial sums of money” from him, according Moti’s lawyer Ulrich Roux .

Moti was arrested on August 19 at Munich airport when he was attempting to leave Germany. He was placed under provisional arrest, Roux said on Saturday .

Moti now faces possible extradition to answer criminal charges in Russia. “His detention comes pursuant to a diffusion notice issued by Russian authorities on January 24, 2018, which notice has not been authorised and vetted by Interpol's general secretariat,” he said.

Interpol could not be reached to independently confirm this. Moti is chairman of the Moti group of companies, based in Johannesburg, and has interests in various industries, including mining, finance, aviation, and logistics, with operations in South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

According to Interpol’s website, a “diffusion notice” is similar to the more commonly known “red notice” circulated to all member countries. The former is less formal and is circulated directly by an Interpol member country’s national central bureau (NCB) to the member countries of their choice.

Roux's statement said Moti had been “subject to a litany of spurious and fraudulent claims made by a known member of the Russian mafia, who lives in Dubai”.

This is understood to be Russian businessman and former business partner to Moti, Alibek Issaev. In 2017, Issaev was responsible for an Interpol-issued red notice through Lebanese authorities when he claimed Moti, his father Abbas Moti, and Moti associates Ashruf Kaka and Salim Bobat allegedly defrauded him in a mining deal in Lebanon in 2013.

But Roux said the red notice was “blocked” on December 15, 2017 through a directive by the commission for the control of interpol's files (CCF) and that the manner in which the Russians issued the diffusion notice “circumvented the CCF's directive and… [Interpol’s]… general secretariat's control measures”. 

“The alleged charges that form the basis of the diffusion notice are evidently a complete fabrication and part of a continued stratagem adopted by the Russian mafia to extort payment by Mr Moti of substantial sums of money,” said Roux.

Moti's legal representatives in Germany, Russia, and South Africa were “raising questions about the validity and execution of the diffusion notice”. The regional high court in Munich was expected to pronounce on the matter within the next few days, he said.

Abbas Moti earlier told African News Agency (ANA) that they hoped to have his son released from jail by Monday. He understood the German authorities would hold Moti for 40 days before extraditing him to Russia.

Abbas said that in an effort to have his son released he even contacted President Cyril Ramaphosa, “who I have a good relationship with”, but who told him his “hands are tied”.

Abbas said he would be travelling to Germany next week, but under the supervision of the South African embassy “so they can’t incarcerate me”. According to Roux, the diffusion notice was issued to various countries, including South Africa, the UK, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.

He said Moti had “official documents” from the justice department, the South African Police Service criminal record centre, and Interpol headquarters in France that “his name is not included on searches of their records and that no outstanding warrants exist”.

Roux said the same organisations, including the Lebanese embassy in South Africa, had confirmed there was “no 'red notice' attached to [Moti’s] name”. 

African News Agency (ANA)