Controversial businessman Zunaid Moti jailed in Germany

Controversial businessperson Zunaid Moti has been detained in Germany. 

In a statement released on Saturday night, attorney Ulrich Roux confirmed that Moti was detained when he tried to depart Munich this week. The detention is in relation to an Interpol red notice which was issued against Moti for the alleged theft of a rare R500-million pink diamond linked to a Russian businessman in Lebanon.

Speaking to African News Agency (ANA) on Saturday afternoon, Moti’s father, Abbas Moti said the family is fighting for Moti’s release. “We want to have him out [of jail] by Monday. We are fighting the extradition. We don’t want to get into Russia and fight this. We will defend it in Germany.”

Zunaid, his father‚ and their business associates‚ Ashruf Kaka and Salim Bobat had Interpol red notices issued against them in June 2017.

A red notice is a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition. It is issued at the request of a member country of Interpol or an international tribunal based on a valid national arrest warrant.

READ MORE: Anti-graft campaigner Hain joins forces with controversial businessman Zunaid Moti

In his statement, Roux refuted the legitimacy of the allegations underpinning Moti’s detention, alleging instead that the Interpol system was being abused by criminal elements in Russia to settle personal scores.

“Since August 2017, Moti has been subject to a litany of spurious and fraudulent claims made by a known member of the Russian Mafia, presently resident in Dubai,” Roux said. “Notwithstanding a directive by the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (“the CCF”) on 15 December 2017 that all data on Interpol’s systems relating to Mr Moti was to be blocked, the Diffusion Notice was issued by Russian Authorities in a manner that circumvented the CCF’s directive and the General Secretariat’s control measures in respect of the publication of data.”

The red notice was issued as Moti and his associates were accused of allegedly defrauding Russian citizen Alibek Issaev — a former partner in their South African FerroChrome smelter business — out of R6.6-million in a bogus mining deal. The fraud allegedly took place in Lebanon in 2013. All four men denied the charges, saying their arrest warrants were obtained on falsified information.

They accused Issaev of stealing the diamond from them on the pretext of having a buyer for it in Russia. International diamond dealer Sylla Moussa in turn, has accused the four of stealing the diamond from him in 2013.

In August 2017, the four attempted to interdict then president Jacob Zuma to hold off on the international arrest warrant. According to Roux, “Moti has received official documents from the Department of Justice in South Africa, the South African Police Services Criminal Record Centre, INTERPOL Headquarters in France, and the Embassy of Lebanon in South Africa that there is no ‘red notice’ attached to his name, and that his name is not included on searches of their records and that no outstanding warrants exist”.

Moti, the statement notes, has travelled to the UK and Switzerland in recent months.

The matter is expected to be heard in a Regional High Court in Munich in the coming days.

In previous statements to the media, Kaka said Issaev brought charges against him, the Motis and Bobat in retaliation for an Interpol arrest warrant they had secured against him for a business deal that went wrong in Zimbabwe.

READ MORE: Prince Harry’s Mandela tribute marred by links to controversial businessmen

The Moti Group’s operations in Zimbabwe have drawn intense media scrutiny but Moti has won over key allies in recent months including Lord Peter Hain in the UK, and forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan in South Africa. 

In July this year, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited an exhibition in London that marked Nelson Mandela’s centennial birthday. The exhibition was sponsored by the Moti Group. 

There is no suggestion the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were aware of or intended to endorse the Moti Group’s controversial business practises; or the group’s links to senior Zimbabwean officials that have been implicated in serious human rights violations.

These links were explored in a joint investigation by the Mail & Guardian and amaBhungane in March.

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Kiri Rupiah
Kiri Rupiah is the online editor at the Mail & Guardian.

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