Maputo — The Mozambican police have complained that the families of businessmen of Asian origin kidnapped by criminal gangs are not cooperating in the investigation - but prominent members of the Asian community claim that some policemen are involved in the kidnappings.
The latest victims have been named as A. Cadire and G. Sattar, who have interests in the recently privatised glassware factory Vidreira, in the southern city of Matola, in the Adalucia Hotel-School in Maputo, and in the Embaixador Hotel in Beira.
The two victims live in Beira, but were kidnapped while visiting Maputo. There were seized by four men while they were visiting the grave of a relative in Lhanguene cemetery. They were bundled into a car and have not been seen since.
The kidnappers demanded a ransom of a million dollars, but theb increased their demand to two million.
This is far from an isolated case - since October there have been nine such kidnappings, and over the last two years 15 citizens of Asian origin have been the victims of these crimes. The criminals target wealthy business figures, of both the moslem and hindu faiths.
The police complain that the families of the kidnapped men are not cooperating. "We are facing a strange phenomenon, in which people do not cooperate in any way with the police", Maputo police spokesperson Arnaldo Chefo told reporters. "We recognise that death threats are made in these kidnapping, but the families should seek help from the authorities. They should not operate on their own".
Abdul Carimo, a leader of the Islamic Council, regards this police position as completely unrealistic. Interviewed by the independent television station STV, he said it was obvious that when families are told that contacting the police will lead to the death of their loved ones, they will keep quiet. But since the police know that a kidnapping has taken place, they have a duty to investigate it regardless of the lack of cooperation from relatives.
Carimo suspected police involvement in the kidnappings. There are also concerns that the gangs involved in these crimes have informants in the banks who tell them how much the targets are worth.
According to sources close to the kidnap victims, cited in Thursday's issue of the independent newsheet "Mediafax", the gangs must involve both Indian or Pakistani members and Mozambicans. This is because sometimes, when ransoms are demanded, the person on the line is speaking fluently in an Indian language, but seems to know very little Portuguese or English. On other occasions, however, the kidnapper on the line has spoken good Portuguese and poor English, with no knowledge of any Indian language.
But the General Commander of the Mozambican police force, Jorge Khalau, is sceptical. He told reporters that, although some of the kidnappings might be real, others were fictitious, and were just a strategy for removing money illicitly from the country.
He asked why some businessmen keep huge sums of money in their homes rather than depositing it in a bank. "Why have they got all these dollars in their houses?", he asked.