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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Maputo hotel with shady past to open

AFP  Maputo, December 10, 2012
First Published: 12:05 IST(10/12/2012) | Last Updated: 12:11 IST(10/12/2012)

The gleaming 12 storey steel and glass edifice is a familiar feature on Maputo's skyline, despite the fact the luxury hotel has never opened its doors.



Instead the Radisson Hotel has stood empty since the brazen mafia-style shooting of its previous owner two years ago, seemingly stuck in an "about to open" state.

But now labourers are toiling to remove weeds from the hotel's garden and cleaning its facade to remove two years of sea spray from the ocean - just metres from the Radisson's door.

This time the "about to open" signs just might be true.

Originally slated to open in late 2010, the project ran into delays not least of which was the shooting of its previous owner, Pakistani-born businessman, Syed Manzar Abbas.

Abbas, one of Maputo's richest men, barely survived the attack in December 2010 which left him in a wheelchair.

It was the second attempt on his life - after a failed bomb attack earlier in the year.

The crime was never solved but for many Maputo residents the shooting bore the hallmarks of the mafia-style settling of accounts that has become common in this southeast African city.

Secret US embassy cables published by Wikileaks in the same year alleged Maputo had become a hotbed of narco-trafficking and money laundering, centring around a powerful clique of Pakistani-linked businessmen.

Now, as Maputo's newest old five-star hotel prepares to welcome guests early next year, its management admits it needs to overcome perceptions it is linked to the mafia underworld.

"There has been a bad reputation we first have to overcome," admits Radisson Blu Hotel's Maputo Manager, Fernando Stern.

He explained that Abbas's company, Fenix, simply ran out of money after the shooting and that was why the building stood empty for so long.

"We are sort of ignorant as to what happened," he said explaining that the international hotel chain just manages the hotel that Abbas and his partners built.

Since the shooting, the hotel building has changed hands. Its new owners, Rani Resorts, who bought the building for $55 million in June this year, say they satisfied themselves that the project was not linked to any shady business dealings.

"There are a lot of stories but the fact of the matter is we did do a due diligence and things were found to be correct - most of them," a representative of Rani Resorts Rui Monteiro told AFP.

He dismissed rumours the hotel was built with drug money.

But Monteiro says the mysteries surrounding the hotel may even be a good thing. "It gives the hotel a certain aura," he told AFP.

Whatever the history, as an army of porters, receptionists and kitchen staff swings into action, the hotel has its sights set on a lucrative future.

Charging over $3000 per night for its presidential suite, it expects to attract the increasing numbers of foreign business people who are flocking into the country attracted by its coal and natural gas resources.

Mozambique has one of the world's fastest growing economies, with GDP hitting over seven percent per year.


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