Kidnap & Ransom update – January 7, 2019
7-Jan-19

AMERICAS

1. (COLOMBIA, 27/12/18) Body of kidnapped Canadian professor found in Antioquia

The body of Ramazan Gençay was found in an advanced state of decomposition on 24 December 2018, in a stream in a rural area of the village of San Sebastián de Palmitas, Antioquia department. The Canadian teacher of Turkish origin had arrived in Medellin on 28 November to give some seminars at the Eafit University, but extended his stay to visit the city. He was last seen on 6 December, coming out with a girl from a nightclub located in the city’s red district. It is reported that after his disappearance, the credit limit of his bankcards was reached between 7 and 9 December. While the causes of his death are unknown, it has been reported that Gençay was drugged before he was kidnapped. FULL ARTICLE (1)

2. (VENEZUELA, 02/01/19) Venezuelan army rescued kidnapped Colombian in Apure

On 2 January, the Venezuelan Foreign minister informed of the rescue of a kidnapped Colombian national in the border state of Apure by members of the Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB). The victim, identified as engineer Luis Alfonso Lázaro Suarez, was rescued on 1 January, during a rescue operation carried out by the armed forces. Seven kidnappers, all Colombian nationals, were arrested in the operation. According to the victim’s statements, he had been kidnaped by an armed group in the Colombian department of Arauca the previous day (31 December 2018). The Colombian authorities later identified the said group as the Grupo Armado Residual Subestructura Primera, a FARC dissident group. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2)

3. (BOLIVIA, 04/01/19) Chilean rescued after kidnap and torture in Bolivia
A Chilean national was rescued by Bolivian police from a property in the town of Sabaya, Cochabamba, where he was held by a criminal group membered by Bolivians and Colombians. Robinson CC, was reportedly kidnapped on 26 December 2018 in the Chilean locality of Iquique, over 700 kilometers away from the place where he was found. According to the victim, he was tortured during his week-long captivity, and recordings of these actions had been sent to his relatives in Chile to pressure them to pay the demanded ransom. The kidnappers had reportedly demanded an initial ransom of 10 million Chilean pesos (over USD 14,000), which after negotiations was decreased to half. The sum had to be paid before 4 January via Western Union. After the ransom was paid, the family reported the incident to the Bolivian authorities, who managed to rescue the victim and arrest five kidnappers, four Bolivians and one Colombian national; the latter identified as the mastermind of the kidnapping. Subsequent investigations determined that the abduction took place after the victim lost a package belonging to the arrested group, containing 50 kg of drugs allegedly worth 150 million Chilean pesos (USD 220,000). FULL ARTICLE (1)

EUROPE

4. (RUSSIA, 04/01/19) US citizen arrested and charged with espionage in Russia
US citizen Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Moscow in late December 2018, was formally charged on 3 January with espionage. This incident took place just 15 days after alleged Russian agent Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the US, prompting intense speculation that the Russian government carried out the arrest looking for a prisoners’ exchange. In a federal court, Butina pleaded guilty to attempting to infiltrate Republican political circles and influence US relations with Russia; in other words, to acting as an unregistered lobbyist for a foreign power. For this crime she faces a maximum of five years in prison, but is likely to receive a lesser sentence of up to six months based on a plea agreement, and may be deported after serving her sentence. Meanwhile, Whelan charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. FULL ARTICLE

MIDDLE EAST

5. (YEMEN, 05/01/19) After illegal detention, Uzbek doctor dies in Houthi prison
An Uzbek orthopedic doctor reportedly died in a Houthi-run prison in Ibb governorate, southern Yemen. Doctor Azzam died in a prison in Yarim district, in unclear circumstances. He was kidnaped by Houthi militias along with another doctor from Tajikistan and a Yemeni man, after their house was raided by the militants on New Year’s Eve. Local sources have suggested that the Uzbek doctor was subjected to physical and psychological torture while in detention. On 3 January, Houthi media reported that its militants kidnapped the doctor and his companions on charges of working at a liquor factory. FULL ARTICLE

AFRICA

6. (BENIN, 02/01/19) Container ship attacked of Cotonou, crew kidnapped
The Panama-flagged container ship MSC MANDY was attacked by a group of at least seven heavily armed pirates at 0000 UTC on 2 January, some 50 nm south of Cotonou, Benin, while en route from Lome, Togo, to Lagos Nigeria. Six out of the 24-man crew were kidnapped. The six victims, who include the ship’s Master and Chief Officer, are all Russian nationals. The ship reached Lagos with the remaining crew on the morning 4 January at Lagos anchorage. Russian consular staff in Benin said they are working to release the abductees. The kidnappers have not established contact yet. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2) (3)

7. (BURKINA FASO, 06/01/19) Canadian and Italian feared kidnapped in Burkina Faso
Canadian national Edith Blais, and her Italian friend Luca Tacchetto, who had been traveling by car across Africa for several months, have been missing since 15 December 2018. They were last seen in the city Bobo-Dioulasso, in the south-west of the country, when they departed towards Ouagadougou to process a visa for Togo, where they would volunteer for a humanitarian project with the Zion’Gaïa organization. It is reported that the two volunteers did not manage to request the visa and never crossed the border. Their car has not been located either. Relatives of the duo fear they have been kidnapped. The Canadian authorities have declared they are aware of the disappearance and an investigation is underway. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2)

8. (SOUTH AFRICA, 07/01/19) 5 BTC demanded for safe return of nine-year-old in Cape Town
Kidnappers in South Africa are demanding five bitcoin in ransom (approximately USD 20,000) for the safe return of a missing nine-year-old girl. The ransom demand for the BTC was sent anonymously to the anti-crime website and social media group, Western Cape Gangwatch. The website’s administrator stated that he received an email from the kidnappers, saying that if they do not receive the ransom to their Bitcoin address within 48 hours, communication would cease. South African authorities have unsuccessfully tried to locate the kidnappers, only realizing that the Bitcoin address provided had already been reported as fraudulent, only used to triangulate payments for the group. Gangwatch has expressed they hope that the kidnappers will soon realise the family’s limited financial circumstances and not being able to hold her for a lengthy period of time, release the girl soon. FULL ARTICLE

ASIA

9. (AZERBAIJAN, 30/12/18) Turkish national allegedly arrested by Turkish intelligence in Baku
According to international media, Turkish intelligence agents kidnapped a Turkish citizen identified as Mohammad Jalan, a teacher at a school affiliated with the Gülen movement in Azerbaijan. The kidnapping reportedly took place in front of the High Court of Justice in Baku on 29 December, just after he was released from prison, where he had been detained, accused of belonging to a criminal organisation. His wife later found out that Mohammad had been taken back to Turkey. It was noted that just before the said abduction, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that that the Turkish authorities would soon announce positive developments in the bilateral relations between the two countries. FULL ARTICLE

10. (AFGHANISTAN, 01/01/19) Kidnapping gang arrested in Kabul
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) arrested a group of four kidnappers in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and rescued a person from their captivity on 1 January. According to the NDS, the kidnappers had abducted the victim, a doctor, in the Khair Khana area, and demanded USD 500,000 in ransom from his family. The gang was reportedly arrested before obtaining any money from the doctor’s family.

11. (PAKISTAN, 02/01/19) No significant decline in kidnappings in Sindh in 2018
According to a crime data report issued by the Sindh provincial police on 31 December 2018, at least 38 persons were kidnapped for ransom in the province in 2018. A slight decrease from the 46 cases registered by authorities in the region in 2017. FULL ARTICLE

12. (PHILIPPINES, 03/01/19) Chinese man abducted in Pasay City
A Chinese man was abducted while on his way to his office in Pasay City on 2 January. The victim has been identified as Wang Jinchuan, an employee of Vertex On Line Gaming Business. Police said Wang was abducted along Pearl Drive at about 5:30 pm, by two Chinese-looking men, who approached him on a car and then forced him in. FULL ARTICLE

13. (PHILIPPINES, 03/01/19) Two Chinese nationals rescued in the Philippines
Two Chinese men were rescued from their kidnappers by members of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) during two separate operations in Muntinlupa and Pasay respectively. The victims were identified as Kang Xintong and Zapping Yang. Xintong had escaped from a safe house in Muntinlupa City on 29 December 2018, later leading the police to the suspects’ hideout, which was found abandoned. The mother of the victim was contacted by the kidnappers on 12 December, when they demanded 50,000 renminbi (over USD 7,000). They later demanded another 20,000 (approximately USD 3,000) after informing her that her son was in their custody. Both amounts were deposited by the family but the victim was not released. The abductors then demanded an additional P1.4 million (almost USD 27,000), which prompted the victim’s mother to report the case to the police. Meanwhile, policemen rescued Yang and arrested five suspects at the Hilton hotel in Pasay City on 26 December. Yang told police the suspects kidnapped him while he was playing at a casino in Parañaque City and offered him P200,000 (almost USD 4,000) worth of casino chips. When he lost, the suspects brought him to a room and demanded 30,000 renminbi (USD 3,400) for his release. He called his girlfriend, who in turn sought the help of police. FULL ARTICLE (2)

14. (PHILIPPINES, 03/01/19) Major’s son released by the ASG after more than a year
On 30 December 2018, The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) released the son of Mayor Eddie Quimbo of Labason, Zamboanga del Norte, after more than a year in captivity. Jed Quimbo was abducted by six armed men on 6 September 2017. After his release, Jed said he had been held captive along with Dutch national Ewold Horn (kidnapped in 2012), a Vietnamese national and three other Filipinos, all of whom were in good condition. According to the Philippine authorities, five hostages — three foreigners and two Filipinos — remain in custody of the ASG. FULL ARTICLE (1)

15. (PHILIPPINES, 05/01/19) ASG threatens to execute Indonesian hostage
ASG militants have threatened to kill an Indonesian fisherman if Jakarta or his employer ignore their ransom demand. In a video recently sent by the militants to his family, Samsul Sanguni, appeals to his employer to save him. The clip shows Sanguni – both hands tied behind his back – inside a hole in what appears to be a forest, guarded by heavily armed militants, as he cries and pleads for help. Sanguni was kidnapped by AGS militants from a Malaysian vessel along with another Indonesian fisherman, Usman Yusuf, at sea near Gaya Island in Malaysia’s Sabah region in September 2018, and then brought to Sulu. Yusuf was freed in December 2018 in the town of Luuk, Sulu, in unclear circumstances. According to Philippine media reports, the ASG demanded PHP 4 million (over USD 76,000) for the safe release of Samsul and Usman. Samsul is believed to be held by the ASG unit led by Hatib Sawadjan and Indang Susukan, which is believed to be lurking in the Tawi Tawi islands, along Sabah’s east coast, for additional hostages. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2) (3)