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Abduction scourge is becoming lucrative for criminals

Cape Town - Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 18, 2022

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Cape Town - Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

THE syndicates involved in kidnappings for ransom in South Africa have collected an estimated R800 million from their victims and the scourge continues as it is alleged that the criminals are working in cahoots with some corrupt police officers.

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Last week 11-year-old Maha Qassim, who was nabbed outside a schoolyard, was rescued at a house in Devland by a crime intelligence anti-kidnapping task team after she was held for 48 days.

Her family had initially paid a ransom for her but the kidnappers, allegedly led by a Mozambican national, changed their mind and demanded more money, about R35 million.

The 40-year old Mozambican Alfredo Jeffrey Hobyane, was arrested in Maputo on December 31 after a sting operation and he allegedly confessed that his syndicate was working with police officers from Crime Intelligence and the Hawks.

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Police have applied for his extradition from Mozambique to South Africa so he can face the music.

The Sunday Independent has it on high authority that Hobyane owns a hair salon in Alexandra township and a guest house in Kew, east of Johannesburg and has been linked to a number of kidnappings in South Africa.

He is believed to be the one who was communicating with Maha’s father for ransom using a Mozambican number.

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Maha was initially kept in a back room in Alex but was moved to Devland after one of the officers working with the syndicate gave them a tip-off that police were about to raid the place.

Two South Africans who are also suspects, Ayanda Kekana and Fortune Kambule Ndlovu were arrested in December as well.

They were denied bail when they appeared at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court and the case was postponed to February 22.

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Kekana and Ndlovu are alleged to be the people who did surveillance on Maha for almost two weeks before she was kidnapped.

“The whole plan was to kidnap Maha and her 7-year-old brother but it looks like the kidnappers had a problem with their second getaway vehicle,’’ said a police officer close to the investigation, who asked not to be named.

The officer said there are a number of kidnapping syndicates operating in South Africa and are allegedly co-ordinated and executed by different “mafias” from Pakistan, Mozambique and Bangladesh.

One of the alleged kingpins is a Pakistani national, who now lives in Mozambique, but has properties in Sandton and Cape Town.

The officer added that kidnappings in South Africa haven't been made a priority crime because “no prominent politicians’ children have yet been kidnapped”.

“The day a child of a senior politician is kidnapped, is the day our government will start treating kidnapping as a priority crime. For now it is regarded as one of those crimes because the victims aren’t politically connected,” he said.

A family member of one of the kidnapped victims who started collecting data and network of the ransom cases in South Africa since 2016 yesterday said the syndicate have made a fortune from their heinous crimes.

“I can safely say that these criminals have collected about R800 million from their victims since 2016,” he pointed out.

The Sunday Independent investigation has established that the highest paid ransom in South Africa to date was R75 million for one person. While we have established that another family was forced to pay a R45 million ransom at a hotel in Dubai.

One of the most prominent abduction case in South Africa last year was the one of the four Moti brothers, Zia, Alwaan, Zayyad, and Zidan, were kidnapped in October on their way to school outside Polokwane in Limpopo and were found in Vuyani near Thohoyandou three weeks later after a R50 million ransom was allegedly paid.

The Sunday Independent has it on high authority that the family had insured the brothers for ransom with a London-based company.

The family took an interdict against the police, stopping them from interviewing the children after they were rescued, and they have since relocated to Dubai amid speculations that there was something sinister about the kidnapping.

The first widely reported kidnapping for ransom case in South Africa was that of a 76-year-old Pretoria businessman, Omar Karim, who was abducted in 2017 and kept away from his family for 137 days. He was released after an undisclosed sum of money was paid.

Another businessman, Shoeb Karim, was kidnapped outside a mosque in Houghton and allegedly tortured for two months and released after a ransom was paid.

Police spokesperson, Major-General Mathapelo Peters, couldn’t confirm how many police officers were arrested and how many others are under investigation after they were linked to the kidnapping syndicates.

Peters could also not provide the newspaper with the number of cases of kidnapping for ransom reported in South Africa over the past few years and how many people were arrested for the offences over the same period.

Sunday Independent

Related Topics:

Crime and courts

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