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Dirty money behind Moti kidnapping

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Dirty money behind Moti kidnapping

Shady money transfers. Suspected tax evasion. Sibling rivalry. Kidnapping. A multimillion-rand ransom. Double-crossing. Murder. A dramatic escape from South Africa to Dubai.

These are just some of the claims regarding the alleged drama that began on October 20 when a car transporting Zia (15), Alaan (13), Zayyad (11) and Zidan Moti (seven) was stopped by heavily armed men, who fired warning shots into the air before snatching the boys.

The kidnapping made headlines after the assailants demanded a ransom of R50 million. However, after the parents had paid the ransom, details of what really happened have been kept under wraps.

Until this week.

Sources close to the investigation have shared claims on the kidnapping, which sounds something like a Hollywood crime movie.

Police investigating the matter confirmed that the family – who have since relocated to Dubai – refused to cooperate in the investigation, raising suspicions that there was more to the kidnapping than initially met the eye.

Police were then granted a search and seizure order, which allowed them to confiscate several devices during a pre-dawn raid of the family’s home in Polokwane.

SUSPECTED TAX EVASION

Police now believe that the kidnapping may have been an act of revenge by an aggrieved party in a complex illicit money transfer deal that went wrong.

A source privy to the investigation claimed the police had been informed that R40 million of “hot money” (money derived from a criminal offence) had been transferred through an informal money transfer system called Hawala, also known as Hara.

The system enables money to be transferred from one party to another without any actual cash changing hands. It is mostly used by people who want to evade tax authorities and conceal wealth.

The source alleged that the family had previously used the system. The kidnapped boys’ older brother also had shares in the international money transfer system Hello Paisa.

However, this time around, the R40 million did not reach its intended destination abroad. Somebody had been double-crossed – and something had to give.

The transfer had allegedly been done through the boys’ uncle, who lives in London.

The people who sent the money could not open a case because the money was illegal. The only way around the problem was to have the uncle’s nephews kidnapped, so that he could come back home and release the money.

DESPERATE BID TO RAISE MONEY

City Press has learnt that, two days after the brothers were kidnapped, their uncle flew to South Africa from London. The source alleged: He appeared to know the kidnappers and, immediately after his arrival, he cut off everyone the family had hired, including private investigators, the hostage negotiators and the police.

“He handled the negotiations himself from then. That was the last time the police had meaningful cooperation from the family.”

City Press understands that, prior to the release of the boys, and before Mohammed returned to South Africa, the family tried to access R15 million in cash from a Polokwane Absa branch to put towards the demanded ransom.

“That request was turned down, as the bank told the family that such a large amount could not be made available immediately.

“The boy’s uncle, a local businessman who’s close to the family and the father raised R50 million … R40 million was for the money that went missing and another R10 million was for the efforts to recoup the money. Then R45 million was paid in cash and R5 million was paid in diamonds purchased from a Rosebank diamond exchange,” claimed the source.

He added that there had also been another investigation by the crime intelligence unit into illicit money flows that had seen several high-net-worth individuals doing business through Habib Bank.

The source alleged that those who transacted through Hawala were also being targeted.

According to two other sources privy to the investigation, the family started accusing the police of leaking information to the public regarding the kidnapping.

MURDER AND FEAR

In an attempt to reassure the family that things would be done correctly, a major-general in the police service had told them he would personally handle the investigation.

“However, he was also turned away from the gate. Shortly after that, the police received information that the family could have had a hand in the kidnapping and wanted to ask more questions regarding these allegations.

“But the family just weren’t cooperating, which led to the police approaching a judge for a search and seizure order for communication devices and applying for an interception of the family members’ communication,” said the source.

City Press understands that the police have already identified the boys’ snatchers. Two of them have since been killed, after apparently being abducted.

Their deaths have become a hurdle for the police, who intended to make them state witnesses.

Another source said the Moti family, through their lawyers, had told the police that they would return and have a meeting to discuss several issues that needed to be addressed.

 A police source said: Even if the police arrested the kidnappers, they needed cooperation from the family – and if they didn’t get that, the case would be thrown out of court. A kidnapping case needs a complainant and without family cooperation, that case can’t be resolved.

CYBER POLICE UNIT

The source explained that, through their search and seizure order, the police had acquired a wealth of information relating to the case.

A security cluster source explained: “They [the family members] downloaded information on their phones and laptops and suddenly, the following morning, they called us [the police] to say the boys had been released. The information that was downloaded included texts, emails and photos. The telephone network service providers have been approached to release all the phone recordings of the family members for the period during the kidnapping and weeks prior to the incident.”

Another source said: “[The police] have included their cyber unit in the investigation and have approached Vodacom to assist with texts and call recordings. The service provider is cooperating and there’s a high possibility that the Motis could be arrested. There’s also a dispute between two Moti brothers who’re fighting over money that was left by their late father. All of this is being investigated and arrests could be made soon.”

City Press approached Keshia Patchiappen, who was the spokesperson for the family during the early days of the kidnapping.

“Hi there. Unfortunately, I no longer represent the family,” was Patchiappen’s response.

Attempts to reach the family were fruitless, as they have been in Dubai since late last year.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Netshiunda yesterday declined to comment.

“We’re not at liberty to comment publicly on cases while investigations are under way, as we could jeopardise them,” he said.

-City Press

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