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‘Kidnapping a serious threat in SA’: expert

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By Zaahidah Meyer

A security analyst says the kidnappings of businessmen in South Africa is a concerning trend and police must get to the root of what is motivating these abductions. This was raised after Cape Town businessman Liyaqat Parker was abducted at his business premises in Parow this week. It’s believed Parker’s abduction is fourth of its kind over the past two years, however several other kidnapping cases have been reported in South Africa.

The Parker family has since denied that there has been any request for ransom despite alleged rumours of a ransom in the form of Bitcoin being demanded.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat show, Martin Ewi from the Institute of Security Studies said there has been a rise in kidnap for ransom crimes in South Africa. He added that police are doing all they can in order to ensure his safe return.  Ewi stated that kidnappers have different motives behind their crimes. Some are political or ideological whilst others are financial.

He mentioned that ransom demands develop in terms of the target. While there are no updated statistics for kidnappings in South Africa, Ewi said in 2017, the South African Police Service (SAPS) reported some 4200 kidnappings. However, statistics on how many South African businessmen have been kidnapped are not clear.

With the most recent kidnapping of Parker, there is speculation that wealthy Muslim businessmen are being seen as targets to kidnappers. Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee earlier this year said these kidnappings are the work of highly professional syndicates as well as inexperienced copycats. In most cases, the families were reluctant to speak out about their experiences for fear of being targeted and have refused to confirm whether ransom was paid to secure the release of their loved ones.

Abramjee said he had assisted with 15 kidnappings where there was a demand for ransom last year. In three of these cases, the ransom demand had exceeded well over R50 million.

In Cape Town, Zhaun Sadeck Ahmed was kidnapped from his fabric business in Salt River in July last year and held for more than two months before being released. His family denied that a ransom was paid, instead saying that Ahmed was abducted due a ‘mistaken identity’ and released after his health had deteriorated.

His kidnapping followed that of Naushad Khan, the owner of Khans Punjabies in Athlone, who was also held for two months and dropped off in Thornton by his alleged kidnappers.

Another high profile case was that of Pretoria businessman Omar Carrim who was kidnapped outside his business premises in August last year. He was held in captivity for 137 days, apparently in shackles and handcuffs. The 76 year old was later released and his health had also deteriorated significantly.

The new age kidnappers are allegedly demanding bitcoins as ransom payment. Bitcoin is a crypto-currency which is designed to work without a central bank or administrator. Ewi mentioned that this was a clear strategy as kidnappers can hide their identity and this way as it cannot be traced.  VOC

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