28 February 2013

Mozambique: Police Seek to re-arrest Bakhir Ayoob

Maputo — The Mozambican Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) have issued warrants for the re-arrest of businessman Bakhir Ayoob for kidnapping and murder.

Bakhir was initially arrested on 21 September last year, in connection with a string of kidnappings of wealthy businessmen. Press reports at the time indicated that three alleged kidnappers, arrested on 13 September, named Bakhir as their employer.

These men, Arlindo Timana, Manuel Valoi and Inacio Paulino, supposedly implicated Bakhir in five successful kidnappings plus one that failed.

Anonymous police sources cited in the media said that Bakhir was also under investigation for at least two murders earlier in 2012.

One of the victims, Momade Khaled Ayoob (no relation), was gunned down outside a Maputo mosque in April. The second, Ahmed Jassat, owner of the Expresso Cambios foreign exchange bureau, was shot in June in a busy Maputo street, and died in a South African clinic a few days later.

But on 1 October, a judge in the southern city of Matola, Helena Kida, ordered Ayoob's release on the grounds that the police had not provided enough evidence to tie him to the kidnappings.

The police were surprised and angered at Kida's order.

The spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Pedro Cossa, told reporters that the police respected the court's decision, but continued to believe in Bakhir's guilt. All the evidence collected over months of investigation remained valid, he said, and indicated that Bakhir was indeed involved in the kidnap ring.

The conclusion that Bakhir was deeply involved in the kidnappings "was not reached by mere chance", said Cossa. "We didn't just pick him off the streets on a whim".

"The Bakhir case is not closed", said Cossa. "We are continuing to gather evidence that shows his involvement in the kidnappings".

Clearly that is precisely what PIC has been doing over the past five months. On 15 February, PIC issued a warrant for Bakhir's arrest on charges of "private imprisonment and extortion".

"Private imprisonment" is the legal term for kidnapping, and the charge of extortion relates to the enormous ransoms demanded to release the kidnapped businessmen.

A second arrest warrant followed on 18 February, this time for first degree murder. The victims were not named, but presumably PIC is referring to the cases of Khaled Ayoob and Ahmed Jassat. Both warrants, which AIM has seen, are signed by Januario Cumbane, the Maputo City PIC director.

Bakhir is himself an apparently successful businessman,

owning several shops in central Maputo, including "Bakhir Cell Shop", "Bakhir Game Shop" and "Bakhir Auto Style".

He is known to have enjoyed gambling. In September police sources said they had received information from their South African counterparts that Bakhir recently lost 24 million rands (2.9 million US dollars) in South African casinos. The police must have wondered where such large sums of money came from.

There is no indication that the two warrants have yet been enforced. Certainly there are no reports that Bakhir has been arrested, and the police believe he has left the country.

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