Police rescue two Portuguese businessmen in one week

Members of the SAPS and Special Task Force (STF) Unit involved in the rescue of a kidnapped Portuguese businessman man in Soweto. Picture: Supplied

Members of the SAPS and Special Task Force (STF) Unit involved in the rescue of a kidnapped Portuguese businessman man in Soweto. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 6, 2024


Kidnapping for ransom is rapidly increasing in South Africa, and some experts have expressed extreme concern.

Crime expert Chad Thomas, an organised crime investigator from IRS Forensic Investigations, said that kidnap-for-ransom cases have become a major issue in South Africa, with a marked increase in this type of crime.

The SAPS, Special Task Force (STF) Unit and other agencies are fighting the scourge head-on, resulting in some arrests.

In a period of six months, more than 54 kidnappers operating in Gauteng, the North West, Mpumalanga and the Free State have been arrested.

This week alone police rescued two Portuguese businessmen in separate incidents.

Since January this year, a total of 13 businessmen and at least six students have been rescued without ransom payments being made. Police said this is a result of the expertise and capabilities of their teams. In the past two years, more than 200 kidnappers have been arrested.

An intelligence-driven operation led by the STF Unit rescued a Portuguese businessman from Nancefield Hostel in Soweto where he was being held captive. The man is the owner of Waltloo butchery in Johannesburg; he was kidnapped last week in Southgate.

On Friday, police confirmed the businessman had been reunited with his family.

Police said the man was kidnapped for a ransom payment; however, no payment was made as a direct result of the police’s swift reaction. As soon as the matter was brought to the attention of the police, a team was assembled, and the team worked around the clock to find the victim alive.

National police said a takedown operation was executed on Thursday afternoon, where two suspects who are believed to be the drivers of the getaway vehicles were arrested.

At about 10:30 pm on Thursday, the team descended onto the Nancefield Hostel in Soweto where the businessman was found tied up and guarded.

One more suspect was arrested at the hostel and further information led the team to a house in White City, Soweto, where two other suspects were found. The victim’s bank cards and wallet were found in their possession.

Earlier this week, another Portuguese businessman was rescued from a house in Soweto. He had been kidnapped outside his business premises in Johannesburg as well.

The National Commissioner of Police, General Fannie Masemola, has applauded members for always ensuring a well-coordinated and executed takedown operation that will ensure victims' lives are not compromised and they are found alive.

One of the five suspects nabbed in connection with the kidnapping of a Portuguese national in Soweto. Picture: Supplied by SAPS

“Our dedicated teams remain relentless in their pursuit to ensure they rescue victims. From January to date, 13 businessmen and at least six students were rescued without ransom payments being made. This is as a result of the expertise and capabilities of our teams. In the past two years, more than 200 kidnappers have been arrested and all thanks to the commitment of our dedicated teams”, said Masemola.

Other units involved in this operation include private security, detectives, Public Order Police and the Pretoria Airwing.

Speaking to “Saturday Star” yesterday, Thomas said the increased rate of kidnapping in South Africa can be directly attributed to the low rates of convictions for serious crimes in South Africa.

“When one looks at the low rate of conviction for heinous crimes such as murder and rape, one can see why criminals have become more emboldened in committing serious crimes. Given the fact that high ransoms have been paid, it’s no surprise that copycat syndicates have emerged targeting people from all classes of society,” Thomas said.

It is a fact that most kidnappers are countrymen of their victims. When asked whether or not South Africa is a playground for criminals, Thomas said: “Foreign crime syndicates are seeing South Africa as a place where they can set up profitable businesses, whether it’s using South Africa as a trans-shipment point for international drug trafficking, or for the trafficking in people, or as a place to run global financial scams from. We are seeing proxy turf wars flaring up in South Africa as local and international syndicates jostle for control of multiple lucrative illicit markets leading to kidnappings and assassinations.”

With 13 victims rescued since January, Thomas said specific groups have been targeted by different kidnapping syndicates.

“Kidnapping for ransom cases initially targeted the Muslim community. We are now seeing an uptake in businessmen from the Portuguese community being targeted. Other communities are also targeted, including people using online dating apps. The kidnappings reported where apps such as Grindr were used are generally what we term ‘express kidnappings’ where kidnappers don’t want to hold victims for too long and generally hold the victims while they empty out their bank accounts,” he said.

Thomas recommended that people load tracking apps on their mobile devices and allow their families access to these apps.

“Families must know the movements of their loved ones and be immediately on alert when someone doesn’t stick to their normal schedule and is uncontactable. If there is anything out of the ordinary, report it to the authorities immediately. There is no waiting time when reporting someone missing,” Thomas said.

He further warned that criminal syndicates will continue to flourish in a country where there are little to no consequences for committing serious crimes.

“Until we see more criminals being held to account for their crimes, we will continue to see an increase in serious and violent crimes. SAPS needs more skilled manpower and resources. We have seen some successes from SAPS Crime Intelligence and the Hawks of late, but they too need much more resources to disrupt and dismantle the massive numbers of criminal syndicates operating in South Africa,” Thomas said.

Saturday Star