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Specialist services are becoming a must in the face of SA’s kidnapping scourge

18 November 2021 iTOO

The staggering surge in kidnapping cases in South Africa recently is becoming a cause for great concern and experts are warning that people should consider turning to specialist consultants trained in handling hostage situations when an abduction occurs.

According to figures released by the South African Police Service, reported kidnappings soared by 133% from 2010/2011 to 2019/2020, with a 16% increase in 2019 alone over the previous year. This has reportedly put the country at risk of being placed on a consolidated watch list of countries considered to be kidnapping hotspots.

Catia Folgore, senior underwriter at specialist risk insurer iTOO, warns that kidnapping is becoming big business in South Africa, with well-organised syndicates often planning their attacks for weeks and meticulously studying their victims before striking.

“In most cases, we are dealing with professional crime syndicates that carefully plan and execute abductions for ransom. They often study their victims ahead of the time and know how much a family is able to pay,” she said.

Kidnappings for ransom and extortion typically involve wealthy businesspeople whose families have access to large amounts of cash. While this type of crime usual involves adults, South Africa was last month rocked by the kidnapping of the four Moti brothers in Polokwane, who were on their way to school.

Unknown motive

The sons of businessman Nazim Moti were eventually released unharmed after about three weeks and the motive for the abduction is still unknown. Authorities are currently investigating, but it appears to have been the work of a syndicate and could have been financially motivated.

“Kidnappings are becoming a serious concern in South Africa and, while everyone should be vigilant, few are adequately prepared to deal with an actual kidnapping incident when it occurs. This is why we are strongly advising people to involve reputable specialist consultants who are qualified to deal with such situations,” says Folgore.

“In most of these cases, the kidnappers want to communicate with the family directly instead of dealing with the police. Therefore, it is best to bring in experts who are qualified to deal with such incidents instead of running the risk of aggravating the situation.”

She explains that companies that offer this type of advisory services specialise in resolving kidnapping situations in a manner that is conducive to the well-being of their clients’ people, assets and reputations.

Typically, their teams of specialists have military backgrounds and are supported by forensic psychologists, behavioural profilers, forensic linguists and stress counsellors. Folgore explains that such consultancies aim to secure the safe release of hostages and the removal of any threats in a way that does not detract from clients’ reputation, operations, strategies and plans.

Swift resolution

“It’s important to remember that in these cases the kidnappers ultimately want to collect the ransom as quickly and efficiently as possible. Keeping a hostage for an extended period of time simply increases their risk, as well as the burden associated with hiding, feeding and guarding the victim.

“The end goal for the kidnappers, as well as the family of the victim, is to resolve the situation swiftly and specialist consultants are experts at doing just that.”

She notes that one particular group that operates in Africa has about 40 years’ experience in resolving kidnap and ransom situations and has successfully resolved more than 1 500 cases across the continent. In 2020, the group responded to 194 cases in Nigeria, 38 in Cameroon and 32 in South Africa.

“These specialists usually work through insurance companies and clients can access their services through kidnap and ransom cover that is offered by specialist risk insurers. Considering the alarmingly high rate of kidnapping in South Africa, the importance of acquiring kidnap and ransom cover cannot be overstated,” Folgore concludes.

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