Maputo — Investigations into a wave of kidnappings of Asian businessmen have led the Mozambican police to transfer two of the country's most notorious assassins from the Maputo top security prison to the cells of the Maputo City Police Command, reports Wednesday's issue of the independent newsheet "Mediafax".
The men allegedly transferred are Momad Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini") and Vicente Ramaya, who are both serving lengthy jail sentences for ordering the murder of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso in November 2000.
The man who led the death squad hired to carry out the Cardoso assassination, Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), who escaped from prison and was rearrested three times, is also serving his sentence in the Police Command.
"Mediafax" claims that Satar and Ramaya were moved following investigations into the kidnappings by the State Intelligence Service (SISE). The two spokespersons for the Maputo city police, Arnaldo Chefo and Orlando Modumane, when contacted by the paper, declined to either confirm or deny the transfer.
The investigations, according to "Mediafax", have led to suspicions that Satar and Ramaya are among those ordering the kidnappings. It would not be entirely surprising if he two assassins have been able to continue their criminal activities from inside a prison cell. Cell phones have been regularly smuggled into the top security prison, and Nini Satar even managed to open an account on Facebook - even though prisoners are not allowed access to such means of communication.
Satar and Ramaya were transferred in total secrecy in an armoured vehicle of the riot police at about 17.00 on Monday. Apparently the investigators thought it important to keep the two under total control and prevent them from continuing to contact the outside world.
Nini Satar's brother, Ayob Abdul Satar, also convicted of the murder of Cardoso, has not been transferred, and is still in the top security prison.
Prior to his arrest in 2001, Nini Satar was loathed and feared among the Maputo Asian community, largely because of his loan sharking activities. He and Ramaya were also the key figures in the massive fraud which siphoned the equivalent of 14 million US dollars out of what was then the country's largest bank, the BCM, on the eve of its privatization in 1996. Cardoso's tenacious investigation into this fraud was the motive for his assassination.
The suspicion that Satar and Ramaya are involved in masterminding the kidnappings may explain why the spokesperson for the Police General Command, Pedro Cossa, was so confident, at a press briefing on Tuesday, that these crimes will be solved and all those involved will be brought to justice.
Cossa announced that one man, whom he named only as Momed, has been detained in connection with the abduction of a Pakistani citizen, named Soraya, on 28 January. It is not yet clear whether this crime is directly linked to the kidnapping of the businessmen.
Another event that may have precipitated the decision to transfer Satar and Ramaya was an attempted escape from the top security prison on the night of 31 January. Cossa said that three prisoners were involved in this aborted escape attempt, but he did not name them.