Cape Town – Two years after the disappearance and kidnapping of Mohammed Noor Karriem, the owner of Giant Sweets & Sweets for Africa, there is no progress in solving his case with secrecy surrounding his whereabouts and his fate.
While the investigation appears to have reached a dead end, it’s believed that his kidnapping may be extortion related.
Karriem, 64, was forced into his kidnapper’s vehicle outside of his business in Epping on September 23, 2019.
There are claims that ransom of an unknown had been paid to the kidnappers after a demand of R20m was made - but neither the police nor the family have confirmed this.
This week, Weekend Argus made several attempts to speak to Karriem’s family about the case after police said it was completely cold, but received no feedback from his relatives.
Provincial commander for SAPS communication in the Western Cape, Colonel Andrè Traut said the case was at a dead end: “Kindly be advised that the investigation is still underway and there are no new developments to report.”
Crime activist Hanif Loonat, who once had strong ties with the family, said it was too long a time for a kidnapping case to be pursued, and expressed fears that case veered towards a possible hit.
“This seems to be a hit or a take out. I believe we can expect the worst outcome. If you look at the modus operandi. I’d like to know what the police are saying and what the conclusion is, we cannot allow this to happen. Was there a ransom asked to mislead the investigation, to make it look like a kidnapping?”
Meanwhile, experts say extortion is on the increase with small businesses being increasingly being targeted.
Earlier this year, a Chinese national was allegedly kidnapped by Mwande Jabavu and Ayanda Morosi who are believed to have demanded R20million from him.
On June 21, 2021, the duo allegedly kidnapped Shaqtung Ye near the Panorama building in the Strand, forcing him into a vehicle and fleeing with him.
After an intense investigation, the two were arrested and the victim who was assaulted and tortured, was rescued. They are facing charges of kidnapping and extortion in the Strand Magistrate’s Court.
Peter Gastrow, the Senior Advisor of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, who recently published a report on extortion, said there were many unanswered questions - who was involved, why and its effects.
He said extortion had many faces relating both to the underworld and to small businesses. He referred the Weekend Argus to his findings: “Extortion-linked murders of foreign nationals running shops also received only occasional coverage.
“But the silence around extortion changed significantly during 2020. From about August and September 2020, the media began to increasingly report on a significant expansion of extortion rackets in central Cape Town,” Gastrow said.
“The phenomenon, reportedly, was no longer confined to the night-time entertainment industry but increasingly affected small day-time businesses, including restaurants and coffee bars.
“This is likely to have been linked to the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, which affected the night-time entertainment industry.
“More alarmingly, reports appeared of a surge in extortion incidents in township areas on the periphery of the city. In places such as Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Philippi, South African residents were being targeted by extortion gangs.
“Khayelitsha is the largest township in Cape Town and contains extensive, impoverished shack areas. Little is known about Khayelitsha’s criminal economy or the criminal networks involved.
“By analysing who is involved and who are the victims, it seeks to assess how critical this situation is, as well as its impact on development, businesses, tourism, and on the safety and security of residents and communities in the greater Cape Town area,” Gastrow said.
Another well-publicized kidnapping is that of Woodstock businessman, Sadeck Zhaun Ahmed. He was kidnapped in 2017 and rescued after two months and reunited with his family. Ahmed had been threatened with a firearm while he and his driver were packing items into his car and he was forced into a double cab bakkie.