“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice. — From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Another year has come and gone, and so it is even more “curiouser” now as the fourth anniversary of Ontario millionaire hotelier Moe Jiwani’s mysterious disappearance is duly marked — with the father of two still missing, and still missing without a trace.
One day he leaves his since-sold Oakville mansion on the shores of Lake Ontario, supposedly to do business in Toronto, and, a day or two later, his 2003 Mercedes SL500 four-door is located undamaged in the parking lot adjacent to Filmores, a gentlemen’s club in the Dundas and Jarvis Sts. area, a hardscrabble patch of core-city Toronto plagued by crack addicts, drug dealers, and low-rent sex trade workers.
And, just like that, no Moe no more.
The days become months, the months now four years. And every time a body surfaces — whether they be body parts in cottage country or a barrel in a lake — police across the province check their missing person’s list.
But, thus far, none of those bodies has been Moe.
Halton Regional Police, who began investigating his disappearance with a certain degree of suspicion — Jiwani had a crack addiction that his family wanted kept secret, and had disappeared for four days before on a crack-fuelled bender — have since turned the file over to homicide Sgt. Alistair Watt.
A person, after all, rarely ramps up a disappearance from four days to four years without something being afoul.
No phone calls to his wife or two children, a boy and a girl now in their mid-teens. No money movement. No sightings.
Since the latest words were written in Moe Jiwani’s mysterious departure, and that was on the third anniversary, there has been some news that has not yet been totally reported.
The mansion has been sold (the original asking price was a few dollars shy of $5 million), and Moe Jiwani’s wife, Laila Jiwani, has moved into a “more modest home in a still upscale part of Oakville.”
“Modest for Oakville,” Watt adds.
One of the hotels owned by the Jiwanis, the Ramada Coral Resort in Niagara Falls, is now closed — sold, according to one source, and scheduled to be reopened mid-month following renovations, supposedly by new owners.
Two alleged extortionists — one supposedly a friend of the family — have since had their charges stayed after reportedly scamming $80,000 in ransom money from Laila Jiwani, who paid the money in cash without notifying police — all in hopes of quietly acquiring her husband’s release.
It was kept so quiet, in fact, that when the two alleged extortionists were arrested, and the claim of holding Moe Jiwani for ransom turned out to be bogus, Halton police did not even issue a press release.
Curiously, though, the joint forces raid on the Toronto apartment of the two suspects also produced some incriminating sidebar evidence — like three-quarters of a kilo of cocaine, for example, some 1,500 Ecstasy pills, and an undisclosed quantity of crystal meth.
Incriminating, perhaps, but not good enough for court, since all those drug-related charges were eventually dropped — just as the extortion charges were stayed.
The ransom money, by the by, was never recovered, either.
It has also been learned that, during the days just prior to Jiwani’s disappearance, he travelled to India, purportedly for business dealings in Mumbai, and returned to Toronto via London.
While in London, he apparently bought a return ticket to Geneva but, according to Sgt. Watt, it is still uncertain whether he took that flight in his own name or had someone else take it.
“We just don’t know,” says Watt.
What is certain, however, is that within days of returning to Toronto, Ugandan-born Moe Jiwani, then 41, drove his 2003 Mercedes SL500 four-door to Toronto, and parked it in the lot next to Filmores.
According to a Filmores night manager, one of many interviewed by Halton police, a man “matching” the profile of Moe Jiwani had been in the club on the night of his disappearance, had used the ATM machine, had engaged in conversation with a dancer stage-named Desiree, and had been “noticed” because he was “loud and flashing money”.
Moe Jiwani apparently had a fondness for scotch. On this night, however, he was drinking Coca-Cola.
Perhaps it was a case of mistaken identity.
Howard Adams is the president of Filmores. He once said if so much time had not passed between Moe Jiwani’s disappearance and the day the police paid Filmores a visit, he could have played back the tapes on the security cameras to see whether Moe Jiwani was the man “matching” the profile.
“At least we could have confirmed whether he was here or whether he was not,” said Adams.
But the loop tapes had already done their loop.