Kidnap plan to net R4 mln

2018-10-16 16:09
Asif Muhammad, a foreign national, has been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. It is alleged he wanted to kidnap the children of wealthy business people for ransom.

Asif Muhammad, a foreign national, has been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. It is alleged he wanted to kidnap the children of wealthy business people for ransom. (Ian Carbutt)

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A businessman allegedly believed that if he kidnapped the 15-year-old daughter of a wealthy Pietermaritzburg family, he could easily bag R3 million to R4 million in ransom.

The plan was to kidnap her and take her outside the province, preferably to Lesotho.

Having done his homework, Asif Muhammad — who owns a cellphone and electronic shop in Church Street — had the names of his next two victims lined up.

However, his plans were thwarted when an “informer” spilled the beans to police.

This was the frightening evidence given to the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday by the investigating officer in the case, Warrant Officer Johannes de Lange.

He made an affidavit which was read out to the court during Muhammad’s opposed bail application.

De Lange said that in 1997 Muhammad rented a shop in Lesotho and started a business. This shop was rented from a person who has now become a police informant.

In 1998, Muhammad moved to East London. However, he and the informant continued to keep in contact.

In January last year, the informant called Muhammad and Muhammad told him his business was not making enough money, said De Lange.

Muhammad told him he planned to kidnap the daughter of a prominent businessman in East London and demand R10 million ransom.

Asif Muhammad, a foreign national, has been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. 

The informant was told to arrange a house in Lesotho to keep the victim. However, the informant told police and does not know what happened afterwards, said the policeman.

Then at the beginning of August, Muhammad contacted the informant and told him that he had now moved to Pietermaritzburg where there was a “lucrative business in kidnapping”.

“He identified a wealthy family and claimed that they could make between R3 million to R4 million by kidnapping the daughter.”

De Lange said Muhammad asked the informant “to organise people who would kidnap the daughter and take her outside KZN, preferably to Lesotho and he would negotiate ransom”.

Muhammad kept phoning the informant to find out when he was getting people to assist with the kidnapping. The informant decided on a date and Muhammad said he would prepare everything for the kidnapping. An undercover investigation was then launched.

Two undercover policemen posed as the kidnappers and began interacting with Muhammad.

On September 21, he gave the policemen the residential address of the teenager he wanted kidnapped. He also gave them the particulars of two other people he wanted kidnapped.

Six days later they met again. This time Muhammad confirmed the first target. He handed the agents SIM cards and told them they were to be used after the kidnapping because they could not be traced by police.

Muhammad was arrested the same day for conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

De Lange added that the case was very serious. “Conspiracy to commit kidnapping is on the increase in our country,” he said.

He said Muhammad’s life is in danger as the community is angry about what he planned to do. De Lange said Muhammad has no fixed assets and it is easy for him to dispose of his movable assets.

State prosecutor Rene Padayachee emphasised that he was a flight risk, that the safety of witnesses needed to be protected and that the community was outraged.

Muhammad’s advocate Harold Knopp, SC, said his client does not have the means to leave the country and that he was settled in Pietermaritzburg with his two children and wife.

He also said that the charge was conspiracy, which carried a lighter sentence than kidnapping.

Judgment on bail will be on Friday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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