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Kidnapping for ransom and extortion on the rise

Kidnapping for ransom and extortion on the rise
21-07-23 / Sisanda Ndlovu

Kidnapping for ransom and extortion on the rise

Johannesburg - Kidnapping for ransom and extortion is on the rise in South Africa with a new trend emerging, revealing that organised kidnapping syndicates are increasingly targeting mid to lower-income individuals, expanding their focus beyond high-profile or c-suite executives.

A recent abduction involving a 65-year-old Limpopo man, involved an intensive 27-day investigation, resulting in his rescue by the Hawks on Friday, 30 June 2023.

The latest quarterly statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) covering January to March 2023 show that kidnappings in the country have increased by 10.1%, with 3,641 kidnappings recorded versus 3,306 cases over the same time in 2022.

Unfortunately, many kidnapping incidents are not reported to the SAPS as families of kidnapped victims are instructed not to do so, which means the actual figure of kidnapping cases could potentially be doubled.

“Kidnappings have become a prevalent source of income for syndicates as they prey on individuals who have access to cash. In most instances, the victim has been profiled as to their worth or the family’s worth and the kidnappers ask for an amount they know they can get,” says Hermanus van der Linde, CEO of IntegriSure Brokers.

Due to tough economic times, criminals have expanded their market and no longer exclusively target wealthy or high-profiled individuals. Syndicates are now kidnapping middle class people with the means or the support network to raise smaller ransom amounts.

A further alarming trend has been noted where the victim is abducted and held hostage for approximately a week before any communication is made regarding the ransom. By this point, the family is so desperate that they pay whatever amount is demanded.

“Less affluent communities are targeted as syndicates have come to realise that lower-income earners make for easy targets and do not draw media attention.”

Previously, companies would primarily insure their executives against kidnapping and extortion, particularly when they travelled to high-risk areas. Now the threat extends to entire families who are at risk of becoming potential victims.

“Specialist cover is available for your peace of mind and covers the associated costs involved in kidnapping, virtual kidnapping, extortion, cyber extortion, hijacking, malicious detention, disappearance and a hostage crisis. This cover can also be extended to include your family as well as frequent international travellers, who may also be targeted by syndicates.”

Besides monetary cover for such events, some products also include 24-hour access to a Response Consultant for immediate guidance and advice should any of these events occur.

“Some of the kidnap and ransom cover products we have seen in the market also include cover for the loss in transit of a ransom by means of actual destruction, disappearance, malicious abstraction, actual damage or theft of the ransom. We have even seen products that provide cover for the cost of communication equipment, recording equipment and advertising costs incurred in an attempt to resolve a kidnapping. Reasonable costs for cosmetic or plastic surgery which may be required to correct any permanent disfigurement sustained as a result of a kidnapping are also included in some of the kidnap and ransom cover products available.  It is important that these products should not only be viewed as providing cover for a ransom but also provide assistance if you find yourself in this life-threatening situation.”

As the frequency of kidnappings continues to escalate, there are claims that they might surpass cash-in-transit robberies (CITs) in popularity. This is due to the fact that kidnappings generally involve no gunshots, don’t create a scene, and covert negotiations for extortion all transpire behind the scenes.

“To ensure comprehensive coverage against the potential losses arising from a kidnapping-for-ransom incident, it is advisable to consult your broker and evaluate the available options for you and your family,” concludes van der Linde.

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