A candidate to be the next head of Interpol has been accused of involvement in the kidnap, detention, assault and attempted extortion of two Indian businessmen.

Lawyers for Vinod and Uddit Sadhu have written to Interpol saying the allegations against Mubita Nawa, a deputy commissioner of police in Zambia, suggest he is “plainly unsuitable” to be its next secretary general.

Nawa, backed by African Union member states, is one of four people on the shortlist for the role, with the successful candidate expected to be announced imminently.

A letter sent to Interpol by the UK-based law firm Leverets Group on behalf of the Sadhus states that its clients “have strong grounds to believe that Mr Nawa played a pivotal role in a conspiracy that led to their unlawful kidnap, detention, assault and attempted extortion” in September 2022, when he was a deputy director in the Zambian CID.

It says the Sadhus were “ambushed by assailants posing as duly authorised police officers and bundled into an unmarked van before being taken to a private residence in Lusaka at which they were subject to threats and coercion, before one of the captives managed to raise the alarm using a concealed mobile phone.

“Thereafter they were transferred to a police station where they continued to be subject to threats and coercion by new kidnappers, assailants and extortionists, including Mr Nawa.”

The Sadhus are owners of Sun Pharmaceuticals, a company that was awarded approximately 117m Swiss francs (£105m) by Zambia’s supreme court for overpayment on a loan from the Development Bank of Zambia. The payment, which the government of Zambia bears responsibility for, has yet to be made.

The letter says that since the judgment the Sadhus have been placed “under extreme and illegal pressure” to forgo the payment by people close to the Zambian state, “such as Mr Nawa and his associates”.

It claims the Sadhus have instituted legal proceedings against serving police officers and government officials for damages related to the September 2022 events, and the case is due to be heard in October this year when Nawa “will be a critical witness”.

In a statement, Zambia’s police service said: “We categorically refute the malicious allegations … These accusations are entirely unfounded and are intended to tarnish Mr Mubita Nawa’s image ahead of the upcoming Interpol secretary general elections.”

It said the Sadhus were suspects in an investigation into the commission of fraud by allegedly altering the share structure of Sun Pharmaceuticals.

It added: “Their claims are fabricated and are a desperate attempt to distract from their criminal actions and evade justice in Zambia. These allegations are part of a calculated smear campaign to undermine Mr Nawa’s candidacy and damage his reputation.”

A spokesperson for the Sadhus said in response: “The Sadhus have not fled the country. They stayed in Zambia for a year after their abduction but are now out of Zambia because they are fearful of kidnap and violence from the syndicate trying to steal Sun Pharma’s money. No warrants for their arrest have been served on the family or their lawyers.”

He said the courts had dismissed the allegations made against the Sadhus and that the Zambian justice ministry had acknowledged it owed 117m Swiss francs to Sun Pharma.

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