Kidnappings in South Africa: Which of your clients are at risk?

Remember when kidnapping featured as high on our list of concerns as earthquakes and actors becoming president? When the fear of kidnapping was the sole domain of our northern neighbours and a few brave individuals sent on remote voyages of discovery?

Then, overnight, kidnapping syndicates hit South Africa. South African business owners were caught somewhere between complete complacency and outlandish paranoia. Rumours, speculation and media exaggeration, mixed with victim confidentiality and right to privacy. fuelled a hive of confusion.

So, what are the actual facts? And which of your clients should you be talking to about the necessity of kidnap and ransom insurance?

Here are some of the facts:

  1. Since 2016 we have seen a huge spike in the number of kidnapping for ransom incidents in South Africa, targeting mostly businesspeople and their families.
  2. More than 24 cases have been Investigated In the past 18 months. although the real number of kidnappings is likely to be much higher due to underreporting by families.
  3. The majority of victims are released upon ransom payments of between R5 million and R50 million.
  4. The primary targets are members of South Africa’s South Asian business community. with individuals of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent comprising about 90% of the latest victims.
  5. 40% of victims are under 20 years of age.

Case Study 1:

At approximately 5.30pm on 25 July 2017, a 71-year-old businessman of South Asian descent was loading goods into his car when four men threatened him with a firearm. The perpetrators allegedly used a Taser gun on the victim and pulled him into a double-cab bakkie. The victim was released, allegedly after a R20 million ransom was paid (which is believed to have been negotiated down from R40 million).

Case Study 2:

On 10 March 2018 a businessman was travelling on the N12 in Lenasia, near Soweto, before being stopped by fake police road block. He was held in captivity for six months. A R50 million ransom was reportedly demanded. The victim was eventually released, although it is unconfirmed whether or not the ransom was paid.

Case Study 3:

Just after 9am on 9 July 2018, a 65-year-old South African businessman of South Asian descent was followed by five armed men into his business premises in Cape Town, and forced into their car, A security guard was forced into a toilet cubicle at gunpoint. A R4.7 million ransom was reportedly paid and the victim was released after 70 days.

South Asian business owners, especially those who operate in cash-heavy industries are justifiably concerned about themselves and their families becoming victims.

While we eagerly await the capture and elimination of these criminal syndicates, we suspect that the frequency of these events will unfortunately rise before they fall. Furthermore, we anticipate that as word of this lucrative crime spreads, copy-cat syndicates will spring up and the scope of targets and methods of operation will expand.

So, what should you be advising your clients?

If they feel that they or their family might be a potential target, they should consider a kidnap and ransom insurance policy that includes the services of a reputable assistance company. If the unimaginable does happen, having a qualified, experienced and available team of negotiators on their side makes all the difference in getting them or their loved ones back in the least amount of time.

Having a K&R policy in place doesn’t only provide your clients with financial protection, it also provides proactive guidance on how to avoid becoming a victim. All of our clients, for example, automatically receive access to S-RM’s GSI Inform website to actively monitor high risk areas and resultant recommendations. (S-RM is a global corporate intelligence, crisis management and cyber security.)

Our clients also receive a free phone call from an S-RM specialist to provide them with an opportunity to discuss their particular risk exposure with one of the world’s leading corporate security experts.

Often, a few simple tips can vastly decrease your client’s chance of becoming a victim. We consistently recommend the following:

  1. Encourage your clients to make their routines as unpredictable as possible.
  2. Whenever in public, suggest to your clients that they aim to stay in groups rather than venturing out on their own.
  3. Advise them to listen to their intuition, be vigilant, take note of the goings-on and people around them.
  4. Seek the services of extra security or police in potentially dangerous situations or if they feel threatened.
Article courtesy of FIA Insight