Police in Sierra Leone free kidnapped Irish businessman
An Irish businessman has been freed by police in Sierra Leone after being kidnapped by armed men in an incident believed to be linked to a major gold-mining venture.
The man, a long-standing investor in Sierra Leone, was seized by a group of men outside his hotel in the capital, Freetown, on Monday afternoon. They bundled him into a 4×4 vehicle and handcuffed him before driving from the scene.
A short time later, however, a police unit intercepted the jeep at Lumley Beach in the west of the city and arrested three men.
Strieby Logan, chief of operations at an organised crime unit attached to the national police, told The Irish Times last night that two of the arrested men were members of Sierra Leoneâ€™s presidential guard.
It is understood the victim, who is unharmed and due to return to Ireland today, had agreed with another foreign business partner last year to get involved in a joint gold-mining venture with a number of Sierra Leoneans. According to local sources, he realised he had been defrauded and returned to Sierra Leone this week to pursue his former associates through legal channels.
When the attack happened, he had just returned to his hotel to collect documents requested by local detectives to build their case.
â€œI think Iâ€™m almost 100 per cent correct in saying there was some form of intimidation for him not to pursue this matter, where some Sierra Leoneans had duped him and his partner out of $800,000,â€ Mr Logan said, although other sources believed the figure to be lower.
It is not clear what his kidnappersâ€™ intentions were, but Mr Logan added that police were treating the matter very seriously. Security officials attached to the UN peacebuilding mission in the West African country were also familiar with the case.
â€œWe cannot have potential investors coming to this country and being treated like this,â€ Mr Logan said. â€œHe and his partner were going to invest a colossal amount of money â€“ something that would have pushed the country forward.â€
The Irish national, who was said to be shaken but in good spirits, has been protected by armed detectives since the incident. Police said he was still in danger and refused to release his details on security grounds.
The three arrested men â€“ one of whom was in possession of a Glock pistol â€“ had not been charged as of last night. Two are members of the presidential guard, but police said they were â€œrogueâ€ players. Many former rebels were absorbed by the presidential guard when Sierra Leoneâ€™s 11-year civil war ended in 2002.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish national was being provided with consular assistance.RUADHÃN Mac CORMAIC in Paris, Irish Times.com
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