Govt rejects demands for foreign probe

17Oct 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
DAR ES SALAAM
Financial Times
Govt rejects demands for foreign probe
  • WE’VE GOT THIS "Calls for foreign investigators are without merit. Our own law enforcement agencies are capable of carrying out this investigation," Deputy Home Affairs Minister Hamad Masauni

THE government has rejected demands from some opposition leaders for a probe by foreign investigators into the mysterious abduction of leading industrialist and business tycoon Mohammed Dewji, who is listed by Forbes as East Africa's richest man.

Pressure is intensifying for answers into Dewji's abduction at a luxury hotel in Dar es Salaam about a week ago.

The 43-year-old US-dollar billionaire was taken at gunpoint by unknown assailants at the Colosseum Hotel and Fitness Club at the Oyster Bay area at around 5:40am on Thursday last week just moments after arriving at the gym for an early morning workout session.

The fact that Dewji was easily abducted at the affluent Oyster Bay neighbourhood, a well-guarded area which is residence to top government officials, diplomats and ultra-rich businessmen, has raised speculation that the seemingly carefully-orchestrated incident was carried out by professionals. 

Police officials initially described the suspects as at least "two Caucasians," saying they abducted the businessman at gunpoint after he arrived at the hotel with his signature black Range Rover and forced him into a Toyota Surf sports utility vehicle (SUV), before disappearing into the unknown.

More than 20 persons of interest are being questioned by the police, but not clues have been released by authorities on the motive of the abductors and their identities.

The Arusha Urban Member of Parliament, Godbless Lema (CHADEMA), yesterday called for an independent international investigation into Dewji's disappearance and other unexplained abductions and gun attacks that have occurred in various parts of the country over the past two years.

But Deputy Home Affairs Minister Hamad Masauni swiftly rejected the opposition demands for foreign investigators, saying the Tanzania Police Force was suitably competent for the job.

"Calls for foreign investigators are without merit. Our own law enforcement agencies are capable of carrying out the investigation," Masauni told journalists in Zanzibar.

He accused opposition leaders of resorting to political propaganda, saying local law enforcement agencies should be allowed to proceed with their ongoing investigation without interference.

Dewji, who is also listed as Africa’s youngest billionaire, is chief executive officer (CEO) and President of MeTL Group, one of Tanzania's biggest conglomerates.

According to Forbes, Dewji has a net worth of $1.5 billion, making him the richest man in East Africa.

His family on Monday this week offered a cash reward of 1 billion shillings to anyone with credible information that can lead to his rescue.

“Dewji's kidnapping is creating a bad image for Tanzania,” Lema, who is also the shadow home affairs minister, told reporters at the headquarters of the opposition CHADEMA party in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

“The abduction of one of the biggest business tycoons in Tanzania will in the long-term affect our economy as a whole because investors and businessmen will not feel safe in the country and ultimately relocate their businesses to other countries."

‘Most VIPs are kidnapped around their cars’

The Minister for Home Affairs, Kangi Lugola, said earlier this week that at least 75 people were kidnaped in Tanzania over the past three years, but the majority of them were safely rescued. He cited some of the motives for the incidents as politics, financial reasons, jealousy and superstitious beliefs.

MeTL Group accounts for about 3.5 per cent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to information on its website.

The diversified group says it employs more than 24,000 people across the country in trading, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, real estate, transport, logistics and distribution.

The company also has operations in 10 other African countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Although Tanzanian police are yet to disclose the motive behind Dewji's abduction, there have been several kidnappings of billionaires across Africa this year for ransom in South Africa and elsewhere.

This means that guarding the CEO of a business will likely become a matter of utmost importance for some companies in Tanzania in the coming months, security experts say.

Some global companies are paying millions of dollars a year to protect their most valued employees, particularly the CEOs. That personal security includes everything from computerised home systems to use of company aircraft domestically and internationally, both for business and personal matters.

Some security specialists say that most CEOs of the world's biggest companies now have 24-hour protection and could require up to six armed bodyguards - commonly either current and former police officers or retired military - each working, on average, eight to 12 hours on a rotating basis.

To ensure the safety of their leaders, as well as their leaders' families, some large public companies mandate private airplane use for all business and some private travel.

On the ground, one of the most important pieces in an executive's security team can be the driver - often more of a chauffeur commando than a mere wheel jockey.

According to the book Just 2 Seconds, which analyses hundreds of attacks on public figures from 1970 to 2000, the majority happened while the victims were in or around their cars.

A trained security driver adds an extra layer of protection - often the most important layer. If a CEO is ever attacked while on the go, that driver may be the only real protection the executive has at that moment.

Dewji was abducted just a few seconds after disembarking from his car after he arrived at the gym, according to eye witness accounts.

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