Uwe Gemballa found murdered

German aftermarket engineering kingpin Uwe Gemballa’s body has been found in Pretoria after being reported missing since February this year.

The flamboyant German, who headed an aftermarket tuning business bearing his name (specialising in high-end supercars) was shot execution style in the back of head, with his hands bound behind his back.

Police had found Gemballa’s body in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, on Tuesday.

Post-mortem tests were being conducted to ascertain how long Gemballa had been dead.

Mystery solved?

The shock discovery by police brings to an end a rather trying saga which started on 8 February this year, when Gemballa boarded an OR Thambo bound flight from Germany – connecting via Dubai.

Ostensibly Gemballa’s visit was to establish a local agreement to distribute his outrageous go-faster kits for Porsche and Ferrari supercars.

Soon after Uwe landed at OR Thambo he contacted his wife, Christiane, requesting a wire transfer to the value of R9.4m. These funds were necessary to cover the contingency of a ‘little accident’ Uwe had since entering South Africa. This was the last time anybody heard of Gemballa.

As a man usually in perpetual contact with his various customers on a day-to-day basis with regards to their respective custom cars, Gemballa’s silence proved particularly vexing.

Authorities vacillated (the German's were investigating tax evasion, South African police a missing person's case) and rumours of ill-gotten gains gathered momentum until the German taxman effectively closed down Gemballa’s tuning shop in Leonsburg.

The most troubling part of Uwe Gemballa’s mystery disappearance was the company records. These came to light as a German court declared it had received an insolvency application from Gemballa Automobiltechnik GmbH & Co.

Shortly before departing for South Africa Uwe updated Gemballa Automobiltechnik GmbH & Co's records with details of a second company he had opened with exceptional expedience. His 79-year-old mother was listed as the sole stockholder of this new "venture" - cryptically named Gemballa Sports Cars GmbH & Co.

Uwe also gave his wife power of attorney before "disappearing" to South Africa. She filed an application for insolvency at a Ludwigsburg court late in February. Authorities appointed a provisional liquidator and Gemballa seemed to be heading for a simple footnote in automotive history.

Now, with local police investigating a murder case and allegations of Gemballa being part of an international syndicate involving money laundering, tax evasion and contract killings (with a reach from Switzerland to German and Johannesburg), it would appear the circumstances surrounding Uwe’s death will become infinitely more famous than the outlandish custom cars with his nameplate.

One of the characters allegedly involved with Gemaballa’s attempt to establish a local franchise for his go-faster kits was notorious Czech billionaire fugitive Radovan Krejcir.

After local supercar collector Lolly Jackson was murdered in May, details emerged of an offshore money-laundering scheme allegedly involving him and Krejcir – the latter being fingered as Gemballa’s local backer for a South African Gemballa Automobiltechnik GmbH & Co dealership.

The money laundering scheme supposedly involves cash being transported in the panelling of exotic vehicles.

Considering Gemballa’s renowned global contact list with the rich and famous (especially Gulf state oil oligarchs, who made up the bulk of his customers) it seems rather peculiar that funding issues would have the flamboyant German businessman turning to South Africa seeking a source for reinvestment.

Gemballa lives on – without Uwe

Despite the murder of its founder, Gemballa has been reinstated as a going concern – retaining its Leonsburg headquarters and network.

The company’s global network remains unaffected too. In fact, in order to raise funds for some of the new design projects, Gemballa's US dealer auctioned off the first McLaren F1 road car ever made.

The German aftermarket tuning company was resurrected courtesy of a cash injection by investor Steffen Korbach in August and is being managed by a new CEO, Andreas Schwarz.

According to Schwarz customers can expect a raft of new Gemballa models, with go-faster packages for the Porsche Panamera and second-generation Cayenne expected late in the fourth quarter of this year.

All things considered though, will Gemballa (as a company) be able to sufficiently distance itself from the murder case involving its erstwhile boss?

German tuning legend Uwe Gemballa, a source of fantasy car posters on teenage boys’ bedroom walls for the last 27 years, will always be keenly remembered by petrolheads.

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