While authorities continue to search for the whereabouts of Uwe Gemballa, the Porsche tuning firm he founded three decades ago is no more. According to German publication Autobild, the firm was officially and completely liquidated two weeks ago.
Most reports indicate Gemballa was traveling to South Africa to find backers for a new African/ Middle Eastern branch, but from there, things grow fuzzy. According to the Johannesburg Times, Gemballa called his home in Germany on February 9, 2010. Speaking in English -- possibly a sign of duress and a forced conversation -- Uwe told his wife he had an accident, and needed [euro]1 million ($1.2 million) wired to him immediately.
If this didn't already smack of a kidnapping, others close to Gemballa throw fuel on the fire. A friend close to the family told the same paper that "a lot of big names connected to the underworld have come up during our search for Uwe." The same source refused to comment further, saying he feared for his family's safety.
Things become puzzling, however, once money is involved. Luxist reports Gemballa set up a "shadow company" before leaving Germany, and also transferred power of attorney to his wife. Autobild says he chose to disappear because his company was headed for liquidation, but hadn't yet filed for insolvency. The Times confirms Gemballa's wife did indeed have power of attorney for the tuning company, and was also the person who initiated the company's bankruptcy filing shortly after Gemballa vanished.
Although this can easily be classified as an unsolved mystery at this point, we know one thing for certain: Gemballa, like its founder, also managed to disappear into thin air.
Source: Autobild, Times Live, Reuters, Luxist