South Africans could be the next target, warn kidnapping experts
Since January, at least eight prominent foreign businesspeople have been kidnapped in SA for vast ransoms
Wealthy and prominent South Africans could soon become the next target of international kidnapping syndicates who are terrorising foreigners living in the country.
That’s the warning sounded by research and global kidnapping monitoring organisation, Red24.
Red24, which is part of the global risk management company iJet, tracks and monitors incidents of kidnapping and extortion.Their data is based on research and monitoring in South Africa over the last 10 years.
It shows that since January, at least eight prominent foreign businessmen and women have been kidnapped in South Africa for vast ransoms, with one murdered.
The company says that since 2016, 34 foreigners living in South Africa have been kidnapped for ransom. The police claim that they are officially investigating 24 cases, but admit that many kidnappings are not reported to police.
The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that, on average, wealthy foreigners were ransomed for more than R20-million, according to the Hawks, who are part of a national police task team established last year to counter kidnappings.The recent spike in kidnappings has also seen the Institute for Security Studies launch research into the scourge, with its kidnapping expert warning that, if the trend continued, South Africa could soon become a kidnapping hotspot on the continent.
iJet special risk analyst Nicole Elliott said there was potential for the kidnappers to broaden their targets to include locals, “especially should local criminal gangs adopt kidnapping for ransom as a modus operandi”.
“While it is mainly expats being kidnapped for now, with our crime rate and high level of poverty, we could see local criminals kidnapping more and more South Africans.”
She said victims on their database included Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Somali, Ethiopian and Polish nationals.Elliott said while hijackings and ATM kidnappings posed a more credible security concern in South Africa at this stage, there was a specific kidnapping threat to prominent South Africans, especially from Asian and south-east Asian communities.
“Financially motivated kidnappings within these communities appears to be increasing. At least eight such kidnappings have been reported this year, with significant ransom demands.
“Although most kidnap victims have been released, one hostage has been killed.”
Elliot said because of the complexity of criminal activity in South Africa, a range of criminals were believed to be responsible for the uptick in kidnappings.“Perpetrators range from sophisticated, well-organised crime syndicates, potentially originating from, or with links to, international criminal syndicates from Mozambique, Asia, and Bangladesh and Pakistan in particular, to low-level, opportunistic criminals.”
She said several of the recent kidnappings appeared to have been well-planned, and pointed to a level of sophistication and experience in the crime.
“The perpetrators appear to have an in-depth knowledge of the victim, and their immediate family’s financial position and liquidity [cash], as well as their physical movements and security deterrents.”
She said they had researched cross-border movements, especially into South Africa.
“One of the areas that we have looked into is Mozambique, its syndicates and the influx of prominent families from that country into South Africa since 2011 because of the spate of kidnappings there.”Elliott said the kidnappings in Mozambique dipped in 2016 because of an extensive crackdowns by the police.
It’s at this time, says Gauteng Hawks officer Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Neetlingh, that kidnappings in South Africa began to peak.
Neetlingh, who sits on a national police task team established to counter kidnapping syndicates, said that while they had looked into several alleged Mozambican syndicate kingpins, they had not yet been able to link them to their ongoing cases.