Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of Tanzanian born billionaire seized in Dar es Salaam in a case that echoes disappearance of wealthy business men in South Africa and Nigeria.
By Tullah Stephen
On Thursday October 11, gunmen wearing masks are reported to have seized Mohammed Dewji, Tanzania’s only billionaire. The popular businessman, is said to have been abducted as he entered Colosseum Hotel in Dar es Salaam’s Oyster Bay area in the morning hours of that day. At the time of his abduction, he had driven himself to the hotel for his normal gym session.
Tanzanian Police reported that two “white men” were involved in the abduction. However, they could not, at the time, establish the motives behind the abduction. Popularly known as Mo, the 43 year old, is said to be a frequent visitor of the Spa commonly associated with Tanzania’s affluent.
A former lawmaker, Mo who according to Forbes has a net worth of USD1.5 billion, is the CEO of Tanzania’s MeTL (Mohammed Enterprise Transport Limited) group a company his father founded some 48 years ago. MeTL is said to be one of the largest conglomerates in Tanzania with diverse interests spanning sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, real estate, transport, and finance among others. MeTL has presence in over 12 countries in Africa and is estimated to have an annual turnover of about USD1.5 billion.
Mo’s abduction is the second case involving high profile personalities in the east African country. Last year, opposition chief whip, Tundu Lissu, was sprayed with a barrage of bullets outside his home in Dodoma, the Tanzanian capital by unknown gunmen. Unlike Lissu’s incident who is a politician, Mo’s case is the first case a gang has been implicated in kidnapping a high profile businessman.
Mo was found on the 20th of October at a tennis court in Dar es Salaam’s Gymkhana Club. Dar es Salaam police boss Lazaro Mambosasa was quoted saying the abductors accessed the gym through the gates which he alleged were left open deliberately. “They drove into the hotel and opened fire before shoving Dewji into a car and speeding off.” He also told journalists that Mo indicated to him that his abductors spoke a southern African language, confirming suspicions that the kidnappers were foreigners. It was unclear whether any ransom was paid.
Similar incidents where wealthy business people are abducted have been common in South Africa and Nigeria. The vice continues to be a profitable venture for criminal ‘syndicates’ even as they become more brazen. According to an article in a South African newspaper, The Sunday Times published in June this year, a total of 40 businessmen have been abducted over the last three years.
Most of the targets for this types of incidents in South Africa have mostly been Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Zimbabwean and Mozambican nationals living in South Africa. As at October 2018, a total of six cases of affluent businessmen had been reported. Most kidnappers according to the paper, often ask for ransom in exchange for the safe return of the victims.
In Nigeria, the father to Nigeria’s international soccer player and captain John Obi Mikel, was abducted hours before a world cup match. Chief Michael Obi, is said to have been abducted on his way to a funeral service. Luckily, Nigerian police force rescued him after a week in captivity. The abductors had requested for USD 274,000 as ransom for his release. Police and family representatives however, confirmed that nothing was paid to the abductors to secure Mikel’s father’s freedom. The former Chelsea player is said to have a net worth of about USD25 million.
Since the dawn of celebrity, there have been huge risks associated with being in the public eye. For a start, everyone knows that one has millions or billions of dollars. Often, it does not take long before criminals stage a kidnapping on the wealthy businessmen and women. Their intentions are mainly to extort easy money from families of those they hold captive in exchange for their freedom. Many wealthy families across the world have endured gruesome events at the hands of gangs or individuals looking to make a quick money.
In Tanzania a total of 30 suspects had been arrested in connection to Mo’s disappearance. The magnate’s family had offered a reward of USD437, 000 for anyone who had information that could lead to his whereabouts. According to Tanzania’s interior Minister Kangi Lugola security forces worked “working day and night” to find the businessman.
Mo, who is married and has three kids, is well known soccer fanatic. He also served two terms in parliament as a member of parliament. Recently, he became the majority shareholder of Tanzanian soccer club Simba. He is also a well-known philanthropist having dedicated to at least give out half of his fortune to the less fortunate. What is however uncertain is the reason why anyone would want to hurt the down to earth businessman.