Experts raise alarm on spate of kidnappings

The spate of kidnappings of wealthy businesspeople for ransom in South Africa has raised serious concerns‚ with experts warning of a looming crisis if police do not act swiftly and decisively.
The spate of kidnappings of wealthy businesspeople for ransom in South Africa has raised serious concerns‚ with experts warning of a looming crisis if police do not act swiftly and decisively.
Image: STOCK IMAGE

The spate of kidnappings of wealthy businesspeople for ransom in South Africa has raised serious concerns‚ with experts warning of a looming crisis if police do not act swiftly and decisively.

Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said last year alone‚ he dealt with at least 15 cases where largely businesspeople of Indian‚ Pakistani‚ Chinese and Bangladeshi origin were targeted.

He said R50-million was the highest ransom paid in all the cases which he said were perpetrated by highly organised‚ sophisticated and tech-savvy syndicates with international links.

In September last year‚ Cape Town businessman Sadeck Zhaun Ahmed‚ 71‚ was reunited with his family after he was kidnapped for ransom.

Three suspects were arrested in the same month for the kidnapping of a Chinese businessman who was reunited with his family after a ransom was paid.

Another wealthy Cape Town businessman‚ Naushad Deshmukh Khan‚ 46‚ was grabbed outside his store near Ryland in November 2016.

After a few days‚ Khan was said to have called home saying his kidnappers were demanding £20-million (R338m) ransom. He was dropped off at Thornton two months after his abduction‚ without any revelation on whether the ransom was paid or not.

Pretoria businessman‚ Omar Carrim‚ 76‚ was released on December 18 after 137 days in captivity. He was kidnapped outside his Pretoria CBD business‚ Home Hyper City‚ on August 3 and released in Olifantsfontein.

Carrim’s family have since remained mum on whether the ransom‚ believed to be millions of rand‚ was paid for his release.

“We are dealing here‚ one‚ with an organised crime syndicate possibly with international links and they are targeting business people who are known to be wealthy somewhat high profile within the South African…secondly‚ we are dealing with a number of amateur groups of copycat kidnapping groups at work‚” Abramjee said in Pretoria on Thursday.

He said many cases go unreported because the kidnappers threaten their victims and their families with death if they report the matter to the police.

Colonel Ernst Strydom‚ head of SAPS hostage negotiators‚ said they chose not to comment on current running cases but added that they preferred the community to report kidnapping cases.

“If we want to address the problem then we need to report it for thorough investigation‚” he said.

Professor Gérard Labuschagne‚ clinical psychologist and former head of the SAPS' specialised Investigative Psychology Section‚ said Sudan‚ Nigeria and Mozambique were the traditional kidnapping hotspots in Africa‚ saying he hoped that SA was not becoming a hotspot.

He said this would depend on the reaction of law enforcement agencies‚ saying experienced investigators familiar with such cases should handle the cases.

Dr Chris de Kock‚ retired police crime statistics expert and crime analyst‚ said the kidnappings were highly organised‚ adding that they should be investigated by the Hawks and police crime intelligence division.

“That is classical organised crime. It complies with all the criteria of organised crime and that should be investigated by the Hawks and there should also be intelligence‚ and unfortunately this (high) tide in crime that we have seen from 2011/12 to today is a direct result of no intelligence‚” he said.

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