Maputo — A member of the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) and a witch-doctor are among three people detained by the police for their involvement in kidnapping Shelton Lalgy, the son of Juneide Lalgy, a prominent business person in the transport area.
Shelton Lalgy was seized by a kidnap gang on 28 November last year as he was walking home from a gymnasium in the southern city of Matola. He was released two months later, after his family paid a ransom. Neither the family nor the police revealed how much was paid to the kidnappers.
On Wednesday, at a press conference in Matola, the spokesperson for the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), Leonardo Simbine, presented the three suspects now under arrest.
The police believe that the soldier, who is a member of a military unit stationed in Manica province, provided the kidnap gang with their guns and ammunition. The soldier (who was not named) told reporters that he knew two members of the kidnap gang, "Elias" and "Big", but he had not taken part in their activities.
"I didn't lend them any guns, and it's difficult to take a gun from the barracks", he said. "I didn't take part in any kidnapping, but I confirm I had contacts with them. Elias was my neighbour".
He claimed he had cooperated with the police and had led them to the house of the witch-doctor, "so I don't know why I've been detained".
The witch-doctor admitted to receiving 50,000 meticais (746 US dollars, at current exchange rates) from the gang for providing them with "traditional medicine". He denied that the purpose of this "medicine" was to assist them in kidnapping. He said he had received the payment from the hands of the soldier.
The firearms and the vehicles used by the kidnappers were allegedly stored at the witch-doctor's house
The third member of the group is a woman who was detained in Beira, when she was supposedly organising another kidnapping. She was responsible for locating hideouts where the kidnap victims were held prisoner. She told the reporters that her tasks including cooking or buying food for Shelton Lalgy.
The same group is accused of kidnapping a trader named Balesh Moulal, in the city of Maxixe, in Inhambane province. Simbine said that Moulal was released and is in good health. He did not say whether a ransom had been paid.
Simbine said SERNIC has also detained two other men, suspected of kidnapping a Portuguese businessman, Ragendra Dhirajbal, owner of the Maputo plastics company Riplex, on 20 August last year.
He added that investigations are now "very advanced" into locating the other members of these kidnap gangs, whom the police have already identified.
SERNIC also took reporters to the house in the Matola neighbourhood of Tsalala, where Lalgy was held for most of his period of imprisonment.
Simbine took the opportunity to warn people who rent out houses to register their property, otherwise they would be suspected of collaborating with the kidnappers. "Pay great attention to any request to rent property for very short periods", he advised.