Billionaire’s Abduction Creates ‘Bad Image,’ Tanzanian MP Says

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Tanzania’s main opposition party warned the unsolved abduction of Africa’s youngest billionaire could spook potential investors and harm the economy.

The government should allow international investigators to probe last week’s kidnapping of Mohammed Dewji, the 43-year-old owner of MeTL Group, shadow Home Affairs Minister Godbless Lema told reporters Tuesday. He slammed what he said were contradictory reports from authorities and demanded that any video evidence of the incident be released to the public.

“The kidnapping of Mo Dewji, who is a business tycoon in this country, is creating a bad image for Tanzania,” Lema said at the headquarters of Chadema, the party to which he belongs, in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

“In the long-term this incident will affect our economy because investors will start leaving the country and relocating to places where they feel they’ll be safe.”

Dewji, listed by Forbes as Africa’s youngest billionaire with a net worth of $1.5 billion, was seized by unidentified people around the Colosseum Hotel in Dar es Salaam early on Oct. 11. His family on Monday offered 1 billion shillings ($437,000) to anyone with information that leads to his rescue.

Minister’s Reassurance

Authorities say at least 26 people have been arrested in connection with Dewji’s disappearance. Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola at the weekend insisted that the country with East Africa’s third-biggest economy is safe for investors and said people shouldn’t discuss the incident.

Lema queried Lugola’s instructions and said it was possible Dewji is being held by Tanzanian security agents. Tanzania’s government spokesman wasn’t immediately available to comment on Lema’s speculation.

MeTL accounts for about 3.5 percent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product, according to its website, importing items including palm oil and consumer goods, while exporting agricultural products such as sugar and fertilizer. Operating in countries including Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda, it employs about 24,000 people.