Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Police investigators in South Africa were so hyper

Addis Fortune
Police investigators in South Africa were so hyper sensitive about a kidnapping case last week that they persuaded a local journalist in Cape Town to stop writing follow-up stories, due to active negotiations with the kidnappers, gossip learnt. It was rare to hear of a hostage taking and subsequent bid to extort ransom from a businessman whose origin is a country known largely for destitution and abject poverty, gossip observed.

Solomon Ketema – a well known businessman in Addis Abeba, with a name in the hospitality industry – has changed such a narrative ofEthiopia. Solomon is known to come from a family in Addis Abeba who formerly owned a pharmacy in the Beqelo Bet area. However, his name is associated to running Chinese restaurants and a hotel by the name ofConcord, onSierra Leone St, which also includes a popular nightclub underground.

He re-established himself in the harbour city ofCape Towna few years ago, after selling some of his properties in Addis Abeba. Still operating two business inEthiopia’s capital city, under the brand King’s Hotels – in the Sar Bet and Kality areas – he quietly invested a substantial amount of money in acquiring a hotel property bearing the same brand and a supermarket inAfrica’s largest economy, gossip disclosed.

Unsurprisingly, he became the subject of discussion in the gossip corridors of Addis Abeba last week, after the news of his kidnapping was reported by the local press. Investigators inCape Townwere very sensitive of disclosing information, as negotiations were taking place to pay the demanded ransom, and they thus feared disclosure may undermine the talks and compromise the hostage’s wellbeing, claims gossip.

Indeed, there was an unfortunate story a few years ago of an Ethiopian family who lost their father inSouth Africa. He was killed by criminals who suspected his wife had contacted the police after she was approached by the kidnappers demanding a ransom, gossip claims.

Luck was on Solomon’s side this time around. The news of his release came late last week, when his sister told a local radio station that her brother was now safe and sound. It was a story confirmed by Solomon’s manager in Addis Abeba. Solomon has also talked to some of his friends who he called fromCape Townafter his release, gossip confirmed.

What was neither told nor confirmed are the circumstances and conditions of his release. Understandably, those close to him wanted to keep these details private to as much an extent as possible, gossip observed. Nonetheless, Solomon owes his safe release from the clutches of vicious criminals to Italian diplomats inSouth Africa, gossip disclosed. Being an Italian citizen, Solomon’s family sought the support of the Italian government to negotiate a ransom amount as high as 18 million South African Rand – equivalent to 1.8 million dollars, claims gossip.

The story this time around appears to have a pleasant end; pleasant if only it is judged by the safe return of the hostage, gossip claims. Not without a cost though. The kidnappers have managed to wring around one million dollars to guarantee the safe release of Solomon, gossip disclosed.

Who paid the ransom is a subject of disagreement among those at the gossip corridor, gossip observed. While there are those who maintain that his family members have paid the ransom, there are others who argue that it was the Italian government who cashed the money out, in order to secure the safety of one of its citizens, gossip disclosed.