SA a hotspot for corporate kidnapping

2011-07-16 15:41

Corporate kidnappings for ransom happen more frequently in South Africa than reported, security industry experts say.

It is also very rare that kidnappings for ransom are made public, such as in the case of the Dutch businessman Edo de Ronde who was recently kidnapped and held hostage for more than 30 hours.

He was released on July 8 after his company paid more than R100 000 to his kidnappers.

Mark Courtney, an SA-based ransom negotiator and security expert, says less than 50% of kidnappings for ransom and extortion cases are reported because of the embarrassment for companies.

He believes as many as three people a month are being lured to South Africa through elaborate scams by sophisticated corporate kidnappers.

According to Havocscope, an online database for black market activities, ransom payments yearly is an estimated $1.5 billion (about R10.3 billion) globally.

South Africa has been named among the 10 hotspots along with Mexico, Colombia and Nigeria for kidnappings for ransom. However, no statistics are available on how prevalent these corporate kidnappings are in this country.

Security expert Elio Zannoni, from International Threat Management, says foreign criminal gangs forge ties with local criminal elements as they inevitably need support especially when hostages are held captive over time.

“In the cases that have been reported it is not only Nigerians that are involved. South Africans have also been arrested. However, Nigerian criminals are known to have master-minded scams luring business people to different countries under the illusion of ‘lucrative’ deals,” he said

Says Courtney: “Companies should make sure who they are dealing with and where they are travelling,” he says.

Wayne Malgas, risk consultant at Pasco Risk, says in most cases companies don’t do enough ­research into how to prevent kidnapping in a foreign country.

“They neglect the prevention ­aspect. It’s a combination of greed and naivety. For many companies its about money to be made and business opportunities and syndicates rely on this. They use the “honeytrap” – a sweetener to a business deal that the businessman just can’t ignore.”

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