By Mzilikazi Wa Afrika in Johannesburg
The Star newspaper’s expose under the headline: “Biggest drug lord in SA builds huge empire”, hit the streets on 28 March 1996 and Vicky Goswami went underground before skipping the country for Mumbai, India.
He left behind luxury cars, a Learjet and properties worth millions of rands.
After a short spell in Mumbai, Goswami moved to Dubai where he tried to rebuild his troubled empire. He bribed senior government officials before setting up two mandrax-manufacturing plants.
But his tail was cut short after a joint sting operation in Mozambique and South Africa exposed his drug manufacturing factories in Dubai. Goswami was arrested after he was found with mandrax worth US$6 million in 1997 and he was given life imprisonment. But for reasons, still unexplained, Goswami’s arrest and conviction was kept secret.
A source – a police officer who was part of the joint operation – tipped me off me in June 2000 that Goswami was in a prison in Dubai.
“Try your luck, Vicky might talk about what happened to ‘Rocks’ as he is so frustrated there in prison,” the source said.
A few days later I landed at Dubai International Airport, in scorching 30 degrees centigrade weather at 5:00 a.m.
I arrived on Thursday and by Friday I was harassing the authorities in my attempt to speak to Goswami. I was told to fill forms explaining my status and the reasons I wanted to speak to a convicted drug dealer. I was told to return on Monday to check whether my request to see him had been approved.
Saturday, in the hot Dubai weather, I left my hotel, heading to the nearest bank to do my forex. Across the bank was a McDonald’s where I decided to have my meal.
I was halfway through my meal when three young men (two local lads and a third who was clearly African) walked in and cheerfully greeted me, acknowledging the FUBU cap I was wearing.
I was glad to see another African brother after two days in Dubai. After ordering their meals, my three new friends came to share a table with me. We talked about everything and they promised to take me to a “tourist beach” after the meal. I happily agreed.
One of the men could not speak English at all and the other one could speak “small English”. My fellow African brother and I were doing most of the talking.
After the meal, we jumped into their car, a black Nissan Maxima parked outside. I was sitting in the back seat next to one of the guys who could not speak English, behind the passenger seat. The “small English”-speaking guy was the driver.
“We must fetch our swimming gear and towels first,” said my African brother.
After driving for about five minutes we took a dirt road. I do not know what Mr Small English said to his friend – they were speaking Arabic. The guy just suddenly jumped on me and pressed me harder on the seat while trying to strangle me.
I was kicking and screaming, fighting for my life. My African brother also joined in the skirmish.
“If you don’t shut up, we will kill you!” he screamed.
I used all the energy I had, any chance that came my way to kick anyone within my reach, bite whatever hand or finger came close to my mouth while trying to raise my head pressed down on the seat.
This fight for my life lasted a few minutes before the door was opened and I was thrown out of the moving vehicle, but my wallet, with all my cash, and my camera were gone. All but my passport – still in my back pocket – was stolen.
I managed to dust myself off and tried to find my way to the hotel, where I phoned the office and explained what had just happened. “Unfortunately, you can’t open a case because it means we have to spend money flying you there every time there is a court appearance should these men be arrested,” responded Jocelyn. “Just thank God you are safe and alive.
We will send you money as soon as we can.”
I spent that weekend living on hotel food until the money arrived on Monday.
When I went back to the police offices that same day, I was told that my request to see Goswami had been turned down. I was informed that they could only let him speak with a South African government official. Not a journalist.
On my way back home, as I was walking towards the departure gate at Dubai International Airport, I heard someone calling my name from the business section. I looked around and I saw a familiar face with a gloating smile, beckoning me to come closer to him. He whispered, “It was just a warning.”
Goswami, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was released after 16 years for “good conduct” on 15 November 2012. The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported that “a life sentence in Dubai is in effect 25 years, but prisoners can apply for early release on various grounds. Apart from good conduct, these include learning to recite passages from the Qur’an or converting to Islam.”
Goswami, who wanted to boost his clemency appeal, converted to Islam and now calls himself Yusuf Ahmed. He even learnt how to recite some of the passages from the Qur’an.
He moved to Kenya after spending a few weeks in India after his release.
He secretly married a former Bollywood actress Mamta Kulkarni on 10 May 2013.
The couple live in Nairobi where she started an events management company.
Goswami is believed to be its funder, although they are keeping a very low profile. Kulkarni also converted to Islam and she is now known as Ayesha Begum.
The above blog is part of chapter 15 of the Nothing Left To Steal by Mzilikazi Wa Afrika. The excerpt from the book has been reproduced with permission from the author and the publishers, Penguin Books South Africa.
You can contact the author on Twitter at @
You can contact the author on Facebook HERE
Please don’t copy-paste from the blog, this is published material.