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Wednesday, 05 September 2018 14:15

Experts warn of accelerating trend in ransoming of abducted children in South Africa

Crime experts have predicted that kidnapping children for ransom will become a trend in South Africa.

In just one month, the province has seen a teenage boy kidnapped from Dundee for ransom, and three young girls, kidnapped by armed men from Newcastle for a ransom of R2 million.

In Mpumalanga, a teenage boy was kidnapped for a ransom in bitcoin to the value of R1.5 million.

Parents are being warned to be vigilant and to educate their children on the potential dangers posed by strangers.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) regional organised crime coordinator for Southern Africa Martin Ewi said although kidnapping in South Africa is not new, holding children for ransom certainly is.

In 2014, South Africa’s immigration laws were amended, with one of the reasons being “the growing issue of child trafficking”.

Ewi said the change in the law was a result of some 4 200 kidnappings reported in South Africa in 2014, equating to around 11 children taken every day for child trafficking or smuggling.

Ewi said kidnapping children was mostly for child trafficking.

He said with the laws tightening on travelling, and smuggling and trafficking routes being regularly monitored, criminals are finding new ways to make money from kidnapping.

“It is easy money. It is just an extension of the kidnapping we already experience,” said Ewi.

“Criminals will see rich parents and will plan to take the child for money.”

In April a television programme ran a segment on organised syndicates targeting businessmen in the Indian and Muslim community.

The segment revealed that there are also copycat gangs who work with the same modus operandi, but that are not as prepared as the organised syndicates.

Ewi said the criminals involved in the two KZN cases and the Mpumalanga case might have targeted the children instead of the parents as they were easier to snatch.

“We have seen this happening in Nigeria and it appears to be trickling into South Africa. It will start with kidnapping the children of rich parents but then they may start kidnapping any child because they know parents will do anything to get their children back.”

He said there had also been an increase in children being kidnapped while with their parents because places children are usually taken from, such as schools, had tightened up on their security.

He added that although there would be an increase in kidnapping for ransom, he said it would potentially be easier for police to find a child who is still in the country rather than a child who has been smuggled for trafficking overseas.

Magma Security and Investigations director, Shaheen Suleiman, whose team arrested the men involved in the Dundee kidnapping and has been involved in making arrests in a few other similar cases said that the incidents in Mpumalanga and KZN were copycats of the gangs operating within the Indian and Muslim business communities.

He said the copycat gangs were looking to make quick money.

He added that these gangs usually had an insider involved.

“Kidnapping is not a joke. It causes so much trauma for the family and the children. Parents should ensure they always know where their children are, and that they always have a responsible adult to watch out for them if they are young,” he said.

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

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