Two nationals have been arrested and arraigned by the police in Mpumalanga, South Africa in connection with the kidnapping of a 13-year old boy.
The family of the child were billed to pay $120,000 equivalent 1.5 million South African Rands in Bitcoin (approximately 33.67 BTC at this time). The kidnap which occurred on May 20, 2018 was reported by news media – South Africa Times and prompted the South African Police Service (SAPS) to create a special task force to apprehend the kidnappers who chose cryptocurrency’s anonymity as choice ransom to facilitate their crime.
According to the police task force team, the first suspect was arrested in Germison, Gauteng in November with the second suspect apprehended on December 30 in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal all in South Africa. As reported by SAPS, both suspects aged 30 and 31 had given off details during questioning as they assented to plans of requesting payment in turn for the child’s freedom.
Both suspects appeared in court on Tuesday, with bail option set at 1,000 Rands each.
Crypto Ransom Growing
Similar cases of kidnap and demands for crypto ransoms have surfaced in other countries. Notably, a Norwegian millionaire Anne-Elisabeth Falkevik Hagen (68), has been missing since October 31, 2018; her husband Tom Hagen – Norway’s 172nd richest person worth 1.7 billion NOK; had found a note from the suspected kidnappers demanding 9 million Euros payable only in Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency. The note also threatened to murder the victim, if the police get involved.
The Norwegian police had before now been conducting private investigations but have now gone public as they seek information from nationals to help find the missing woman. A twist to the investigation and ransom lies with the privacy, un-traceability and total anonymity of Monero (XMR) coins, also there were no security cameras in the residence though neighbouring traffic footages have been obtained.
Also In September 2018, Capetown, South Africa a local businessman – Liqayat Parker was kidnapped with his abductors who demandeda 50 BTC ransom from his family. However, it is not clear if the ransom was paid before Parker’s release two months later.
Cases where Bitcoin ransoms have been paid also abound – in December 2017, about $1 million worth of bitcoin was paid to abductors who had kidnapped a crypto exchange executive Pavel Lerner in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A quick fire response by crypto pessimists would be claims of possible crime use cases from terrorism to kidnapping and more; ills which have all been propagated by the long serving fiat (paper currency) overtime.
Asides this argument, one fact remains certain with more utility, adoption and global focus around the space, authorities and varying development teams will create dedicated procedures to curb/track crypto-related kidnapping and facilitated crimes.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions are not totally anonymous as they can be traced through the current KYC procedures by exchanges. Also as seen in China, special courts for crypto crimes have been setup.
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