Africa’s youngest billionaire was kidnapped in a shocking early morning assault in the streets of Tanzania outside of an affluent hotel Thursday morning in what appeared to have been a carefully planned abduction.
Tanzanian police remain on high alert and are reportedly scouring the country for 43-year old mogul Mohammed Dewji — who runs the METL group, a family business that operates across six African countries in diverse industries as trading, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and petroleum, and financial services, among others.
Dewji was reported by the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation as walking into the Colosseum Hotel and Fitness Club in Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam, the country’s capital, for his routine gym session during the early morning hours, when two white men and an unknown number of others in two cars sped up to the front of hotel, fired weapons into the air, and nabbed him and quickly drove away.
The abduction happend around 6:30am local time, according to police, and was brazen yet apparently well planned given the public, high profile and somewhat busy nature of the location. Police and regional media described the abductors as likely foreign nationals.
CNN described the official police account as follows:
They drove into the hotel and opened fire before bundling Dewji into a car and speeding off, said Dar es Salaam regional police commissioner Lazaro Mambosaso.
“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.
As CEO of METL group, which was founded in the 1970’s by his father, Dewji has been consistently profiled as both Africa’s youngest billionaire and as a prominent philanthropist, having signed “The Giving Pledge” in 2016, promising to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes.
According to Forbes Magazine, he has a net worth of $1.5 billion, and has served twice in Tanzanian parliament. His pan-African conglomerate operates across 35 industries and has massive holdings in textile and food and beverage manufacturing businesses across Africa.
Police believe this was a ransom kidnapping; however, a clear motive or ransom note was not immediately forthcoming.
He was the sixth billionaire to be kidnapped on African soil this year, according to a recent study, which further identified South Africa as ranking highest for such high profile kidnappings of ultra-wealthy businessmen; however, this may have been the first abduction of a billionaire in the East African nation of Tanzania.
According to the BBC it’s unlikely that Dewji had any body guards present or even nearby at the time of his abduction:
But despite his wealth and fame he has always been incredibly relaxed in his approach to security – in fact all the Dewji family were.
He never moved with security guards or bouncers and would often pop out to the gym on his lunch break or to meet friends after work unaccompanied.
In his day to day life he didn’t look like a billionaire – he was a friendly, affable young man going about his business.
Dewji served two terms in the Tanzania parliament before he resigned in 2015 to dedicate more time to the family business. In 2015 Forbes Africa named him person of the year and was well-known as the richest person in Tanzania.