Durban – The police believe they may have cracked an international syndicate after rescuing KwaZulu-Natal businesswoman Sandra Moonsamy.
The criminals have been involved in a string of kidnappings that netted them hundreds of millions of rand.
Investigators believe the gang, caught in a surprise raid on Thursday night, were involved in the kidnappings of Pretoria businessman Omar Carrim and Joburg businessman Shiraz Ghatoo.
This, according to a source, after the suspects allegedly involved in Moonsamy’s kidnapping were linked to other kidnappings through evidence.
Moonsamy was rescued by the police in eMalahleni after 162 days in captivity and the breakthrough in the case, said a source, came weeks ago when arrests were made on an unrelated crime.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said its investigators raced from KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday after “something came up”.
Supported by other SAPS units and metro police, the Hawks raided properties in Honeydew, Mamelodi, and eMalahleni and arrested four men.
“The police took the kidnappers by surprise.
“This followed weeks of intense investigations by the Hawks,” said the source.
Moonsamy was found chained in a room in a luxury house, which was apparently being rented by the gang. Firearms and luxury vehicles were seized.
The 46-year-old mother of two is now believed to be in hospital.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele said, “she is not in a very good condition, but we believe she will be okay”.
“More people are still wanted.”
Hangwani said one of the syndicate’s kingpins was arrested in the raids.
“We are dealing with a syndicate, we need to check them thoroughly.
“They are not South African and we might have to work with other law enforcement agencies from around the world,” said Mulaudzi.
The source said another kingpin was being sought and there is the possibility he might be out of the country.
Over the past two years, a number of wealthy business people have been kidnapped and the modus operandi in most of these cases were similar.
The kidnappers demanded between $1million (more than R14m) and $3m, and forced the victims’ families to pay the ransom in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, at cash exchanges.
Their victims are often kept in captivity for months.
Moonsamy, the daughter of a Durban logistics tycoon, went missing on May 31 after she was forced off a road in Pinetown, west of Durban.
It is believed the kidnappers demanded a ransom of R140million.
A member of the Carrim family welcomed the arrests yesterday.
“We don’t know much but we are happy arrests have been made.
“Let’s give the cops the space to deal with it,” said the family member who didn’t want to be named.
“I have recordings and the voice in the one call matches the voice in some of the cases where ransom demands are made.”
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee, who has been highlighting these cases, said the arrests on Thursday evening were significant.
“The kidnappers have been getting away with it for years and I suspect the backbone has now been broken,” Abramjee said.
The Hawks may have made a major breakthrough breaking up a large-scale kidnapping syndicate, but there is concern for another Cape Town businessman, Noor Mohammed Karriem, who was kidnapped recently.