The search for exotic-car tuner Uwe Gemballa continues: German state police recently sent officers to South Africa and classified this as a "missing person" case. Where did you go, Uwe?
The 54-year-old German tuning wizard was reported missing to German police in Leonberg, Germany on Tuesday, February 9th. According to German authorities, he arrived in the Johannesburg airport (OR Tambo) from Dubai at 11:30 PM on February 8th. While at the airport, he met with an unknown contact. This man is wanted for questioning by the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Vishnu Naidoo, a SAPS spokesperson, told Jalopnik that he spoke with Gemballa's wife on the evening of the ninth, which agrees with the German police report that states "in the last phone conversation with his wife, [Gemballa] announced that he had had an accident and was in need of a large sum of money." Shortly thereafter, German newspaper Bild, more of an "all the news" than an "all the news that's fit to print" publication, reported that Gemballa had been kidnapped. Both German and South African police refuse to identify the event as a kidnapping, but both confirm that local and federal German authorities are actively working in South Africa.
"There is not evidence that there is a crime; [the case] is being investigated as a missing person," said Naidoo.
Theories abound as to what has actually occurred in the nearly two weeks since Gemballa's disappearance. They include the possibility that he went missing due to issues with the German government. Uwe Vincon, a spokesman for the branch of the German police that is handling the investigation, claims that he is unaware of such rumors and refuses to confirm them. "Unclear are the reasons for the disappearance of the 54-year old," he said. "The police are searching in all directions, and exclude neither a crime, nor an accident, nor other reasons."
"The idea that Uwe Gemballa is on the run from his business and family is inconceivable," said longtime Gemballa friend and business associate Michael Burroughs. "He's a passionate businessman and a loving father, and from my view, it's impossible for [such rumors] to be true."
And in a twist, according to an article in the Johannesburg Sunday Times:
Sources with knowledge of the incident say police are investigating the possibility that a fugitive businessman from the Czech Republic, who is believed to be in South Africa, might be linked to his disappearance.
Radio Prague reported in 2005 that the High Court in Johannesburg had turned down an application for the man's extradition. The billionaire businessman has already been sentenced in absentia in the Czech Republic to six-and-a-half years' jail for tax fraud."
This article is likely referring to Radovan Krejcir, whom Radio Prague calls "one of the [Czech Republic]'s most notorious fugitives". He is reported to be in Johannesburg.
Naidoo refused to comment specifically on this possibility, saying only that he is "not at liberty to discuss who we speak to and who we won't speak to. We will not give a blow-by-blow."
All parties involved are interested any information pertaining to Gemballa's whereabouts. In addition, his wife and family are offering a 10,000-Euro reward for any information that leads to his recovery.