Maputo — The Mozambican police have sought help from Interpol to arrest fugitive businessman Mohamed Bakhir Ayoob, wanted in connection with a spate of kidnappings and at least one murder in Maputo.
According to a report in Friday’s issue of the independent weekly “Savana”, when the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) issued the first arrest warrant, on charges of “private imprisonment” (i.e. kidnapping) and extortion against Bakhir, on 15 February, somebody tipped him off, and he fled the country.
He went first to Dubai, and then onto Hong Kong, where much of the money obtained from the ransoms paid by the relatives of the kidnap victims is believed to have been transferred.
PIC has now asked Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for Bakhir. It has also alerted its regional counterparts in SARPCO (Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Organisation).
A second arrest warrant, issued three days after the first, concerns a charge of first degree murder. Bakhir is believed to have ordered the murder last June of Ahmad Jassat, owner of the Expresso Cambios foreign exchange bureau. Jassat was shot seven times on one of Maputo’s main thoroughfares, 24 July Avenue. He was flown to a South African clinic, where he died,
According to sources in the murdered man’s family, Bakhir owed Jassat seven million US dollars.
Bakhir was initially arrested on 21 September last year, and the police believed they had a solid case against him, based largely on the testimony of members of the kidnap gang paid by Bakhir.
The police were thus surprised when a judge in the southern city of Matola, Helena Mateus Kida, ordered the release of Bakhir, for lack of evidence. She claimed that the
only facts proved were that Bakhir frequented casinos, and offered valuable goods to friends – which are not in themselves crimes.
The police now believe that Kida reached this conclusion because she simply did not have the evidence before her. Key pieces of evidence had been removed from the case file before it reached her – which indicates serious criminal infiltration of the police, of the Matola court, or of both.
The police were able to revive the case in February, because they have the testimony of another detained kidnapper, Romao Daude. He was interrogated on 31 January in connection with the kidnapping of Zainadin Ali, owner of a building firm and a cake shop.
According to “Savana”, Daude said that he had known Bakhir for a long tome and had collaborated with him in the kidnapping of Ali.
The police believe that Bakhir is not the only mastermind behind the kidnaps – PIC claims that convicted assassin Momad Assife Abdul Satar (“Nini) is also involved, and has been giving instructions from his prison cell.
Nini Satar is serving a prison sentence of 24 years for ordering the murder, in November 2000, of the country’s top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso. He was also sentenced to 14 years for his part in the major bank fraud which siphoned the equivalent of 14 million dollars out of the BCM (Commercial Bank of Mozambique).
“Savana” reports that a case against Satar in connection with the kidnappings has now been deposited with the 10th section of the Maputo City Court.