Tanzanian billionaire found unharmed, says kidnappers were South African

Tanzanian billionaire Mohammed Dewji
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Cape Town – Tanzanian billionaire Mohammed Dewji, who was kidnapped by armed gunmen and held for ransom over a week ago, was released on Saturday morning, according to reports.

Dewji did not know who his abductors were but believes they were from South Africa, his office told Forbes Africa.

“I thank Allah that I have returned home safely. I thank all my fellow Tanzanians, and everyone around the world for their prayers. I thank the authorities of Tanzania, including the Police Force for working for my safe return,” he said in a tweeted messaged.

His father Gullam Dewji confirmed his son’s release in comments to the Tanzanian daily Mwanachi. His uncle, Azim Dewji said the kidnappers had released him early Saturday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s economic capital.

Dewji, 43, who is considered Africa’s youngest billionaire, was seized by gunmen as he entered a hotel gym in Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam on Thursday morning last week.

His family was offering a reward of half a million dollars (about R7,2 million) for information that would help police find him.

On Friday police chief Simon Sirro told a press conference that surveillance videos at the hotel had captured images of the vehicle used by the kidnappers, a dark blue 4X4.

“We have been able to identify the vehicle. So we have advanced a lot in our investigation, we will publish these photos,” he said.

“On top of that we know this car entered the country on September 1 from a neighbouring country,” Sirro added, refusing to name the country.

“We already have the names of the vehicle’s owner and the driver.”

Sirro said that of 27 people arrested eight were still in custody.

The opposition has called for independent international investigators to take over the probe, citing an increase in kidnappings and attacks in which no one is ever brought to book.

Dewji is chief executive of the MeTL Group, which operates in a dozen countries and has interests in agriculture, insurance, transport, logistics and the food industry.

According to Forbes, he is worth $1.5 billion (1.29 billion euros) and ranks 17th on the list of African billionaires.

He was a member of parliament from 2005 to 2015, and in 2013 became the first Tanzanian to feature on the cover of Forbes magazine. Two years later, he was named Forbes’ Africa Person of the Year.

Dewji is also the main shareholder in Tanzania’s Simba FC football club.

AFP and Staff Reporter