Man held over kidnap scam
AJOBURGspice shop owner who allegedly concocted an elaborate tale about being kidnapped by a sinister syndicate of Pakistani extortionists to raise money for his gambling debts is facing jail time.
Harishbhai Patel is alleged to have fooled his family and the Indian community in the Joburg CBD into paying part of the ransom.
Patel told his family on Saturday afternoon that he was meeting some Pakistanis to pay them to arrange for under-the-counter immigration papers for a family member in India.
Such syndicates do exist, so his story was believed.
A resident who was involved in assisting the family, but did not want to be named, said Patel left his home in the CBD at 3pm. He was not back by 6pm, so his wife called him. He said he was at Gold Reef City and would be returning soon.
At 10pm, she tried to call, but his phone was off and she panicked.
At midnight, a man speaking Urdu answered Patel’s phone and said he was holding him, and his wife should pay R10 000 ransom for his return.
“She managed to raise R10 000, but no one arrived to fetch it,” he said. Yet on Sunday at 7am, the “kidnappers” called to say they were disappointed that the money had not been paid, and increased their demand to R65 000.
They said his hands would be cut off if the money was not paid and they told her to deposit it into his bank account.
It is believed that Patel’s relatives refused to help him pay his gambling debts.
The police were contacted and they advised her to pay small instalments, which would give them time to investigate.
The community helped raise R10 000, which was paid into the “victim’s” bank account.
Top police officials, including brigadiers and colonels, dropped everything to find the kidnap victim. They went to Gold Reef City and spent hours looking at video footage, which did not show Patel’s car entering or leaving the entertainment venue.
Following intense investigations, including monitoring withdrawals made at ATMs, police were led to Durban on Tuesday, where they found Patel.
“Police became suspicious when they found him in a house sitting and eating a meal with his supposed captors,” said the source.
The source said police were wonderful and had taken the case seriously.
“Our community has nothing but praise for them. It is a pity that so much manpower and taxpayers’ money has been wasted on a scam like this to settle gambling debts,” he said.
Provincial police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said four suspects were in custody and due to appear in the Protea Magistrate’s Court this morning on fraud, kidnapping and perjury charges.
He said the cost of the police investigation would be included in the criminal charges.
“This case involved a lot of time and resources, including travelling to Durban. Perjury is a very serious crime, which could mean jail time.”