Africa’s youngest billionaire has been kidnapped by masked gunmen in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania on Thursday morning according to officials in the coastal city.
Mohamed Dewji 43, a Tanzanian Asian tycoon who is believed to be Africa’s 17th richest man, was taken by the armed men who waylaid as he left the gym of the Colosseum Hotel Oyster Bay, after his early morning workout at around 6.30 am local time, police said.
The abductors, who are believed to be foreign nationals, accessed the gym through gates that are believed to have been left open deliberately, Dar es Salaam regional police commissioner Lazaro Mambosaso told CNN.
"They came in a car to the hotel and started shooting in the air before they took him away. We are questioning the staff who were on duty at the time," the commissioner said.
The motive for the kidnapping is still unknown, although police expect this to be a "ransom" kidnapping.
Lazaro Mambosasa, the Dar es Salaam police chief, told a press conference the kidnappers had “shot into the air” before bundling Dewji into a car.
He said police have tightened borders in and around Tanzania's economic capital, Dar es Salaam, and were looking for suspects and had already made arrests. The three people who had been arrested in connection with the incident are being questioned, and two of the abductors are thought to be foreign nationals.
The regional governor, Paul Makonda, said: “Initial information indicates he was kidnapped by whites travelling in two vehicles. This kind of incident is new here.”
Eye witnesses said four unidentified people arrived before the businessman and parked at the hotel. Another vehicle remained outside. Witnesses said that one of the gunmen fired into the air before dragging the victim out of the hotel.
An Uber driver nearby said when Mr. Dewji appeared, the car parked inside flashed lights before the two white men alighted from their vehicle and went straight to where Dewji was. They then pulled him into their car and sped off while shooting in the air.
Dewji was born in Tanzania and studied at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He served as an MP from 2005 to 2015. In 2013, he became the first Tanzanian to be on the cover of Forbes magazine, and was named Forbes Africa person of the year in 2015.
Mr. Dewji who is married with three children, in 2016 signed a pledge to donate at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes. According to Forbes he is 17th on the list of Africa's billionaires, and worth $1.5 billion (1.29 billion euros).
The 43-year-old’s wealth was estimated at $1.5bn (£980m) last year by Forbes magazine, which also said it made him the continent’s youngest billionaire.
Mr. Dewji is the owner and president of the MeTL Group, which operates in more than 10 countries, and employs more than 24,000 people with interests in agriculture to insurance, transport, logistics and the food industry. He is also the main shareholder in Tanzania's Simba FC football club.
The company was founded as a small local business by his father in the early 1970s but under his watch has been transformed into a huge multinational with operations in 11 African nations.
Despite his high profile and enormous wealth, Mr. Dewji was not travelling with any bodyguards or private security, the Dar es Salaam regional police commissioner Paul Makonda said.
Businessmen in Tanzania have never faced such an incident so far. So they moved freely in the country. Some may have chauffeurs, but not bodyguards.
News of the incident spread fast on the social media sending shockwaves throughout the country.
Tanzania last saw a high-profile kidnapping case in February when Daniel John, a leading figure in the main opposition party Chadema, was bundled into a car in Dar es Salaam while campaigning in a parliamentary by-election. His body was later recovered; he had been attacked with a machete before being beaten to death.
Miss Maryam Nashida
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