x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Trader describes India kidnap ordeal

A father of two who went to India for a business deal was beaten and held captive for five days.

DUBAI // A Dubai businessman described yesterday how he was abducted at gunpoint, brutally beaten, held for ransom and threatened with beheading after a business deal in India turned sour.

Asif Ali, 42, a father of two who runs a trading company in Deira, was tortured and forced to write a suicide note. Kidnappers demanding a 10 million rupee (Dh667,000) ransom kept him captive for five days before police raided the Chandigarh hotel where he was being held and staged a dramatic rescue.

“They threatened to kill me if the money was not paid. They told me I would be beheaded and my body would be dumped in a river,” Mr Ali said yesterday.

“They beat me so badly my eardrum stopped functioning. They tied me to a chair and abused me.”

Mr Ali believes the kidnappers intended to kill him after the ransom was paid, and they made him write a suicide note.

During the first two days of his ordeal, they forced him at gunpoint to call his cousin in Gujarat and arrange for 1.2m rupees to be deposited in a bank account.

But three days later Mr Ali was still a captive, after the gang moved him from an isolated location to a hotel room in Chandigarh. From there, he managed to send a text message to his cousin pleading for help.

“When they were drunk and slept I slowly grabbed a mobile phone and sent an SMS for help,” he said.

“The Punjab police raided the hotel room and arrested the kidnappers. I got another life.”

Three people, including Mr Ali’s prospective business partner, have been arrested and charged in connection with the case and a further three remain on the run, Indian police said yesterday.

“All three have been charged with various sections of the Indian penal code like kidnapping for ransom, putting a person in fear of death or causing grievous hurt in order to commit extortion and criminal conspiracy,” said Narinder Singh, sub inspector at SAS Nagar Police in Chandigarh.

“All the accused have been remanded in three-day police custody by a local court.”

Mr Ali, from Gujarat, settled in Dubai a year and a half ago. This year he made a deal with a propective business partner in India to sell food commodities such as rice and wheat.

There was a financial dispute, which Mr Ali was in India trying to resolve – and was abducted instead.

“It’s been just three months since I got in touch with this guy who told me he would start a business in India,” he said.

“After some negotiations I went to India but was kidnapped at gunpoint. He broke my trust.

“This incident is a lesson for everyone,” he said. “They should survey the background of the person whom they are dealing with and take enough time before entering into a partnership.

“Three months was a short time for me to have started a business with a man I didn’t know.”

This year an Emirati businessman was held to ransom by a Nigerian gang.

Mohammed Khamis Majed, 29, was abducted by the armed gang on January 21, a day after flying in for a short business trip where he intended to close a deal for his building maintenance company.

He was held captive for 50 days before being rescued in an operation led by the Ministry of Interior, which refused to give in to the kidnappers’ demand for a US$5 million (Dh18.3m) and flew him home on March 21 by private plane.

Deepak Raheja, 40, from Dubai, was stranded in Shanghai in December when his boss, the Yemeni owner of Euro Global Trading, fled China owing $1.5m to traders in Yiwu in Zhejiang province.

The creditors kidnapped Mr Raheja and a colleague and held them to ransom for the money they were owed before the Indian Embassy in China came to their assistance in January.

frahman@thenational.ae