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Kidnapping insurance in high demand, says speciality insurer

Published Nov 27, 2021

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Durban: A growing number of South Africans are taking out insurance to cover them in the event that they or a loved one are kidnapped for ransom.

Justin Naylor, the managing director of iTOO Special Risks, a speciality insurer, said they had noticed an increase in demand for this type of cover.

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“This is definitely due to an increase in kidnappings this year, in comparison to last year,” he said.

Naylor said their policy covered costs incurred on responding to a kidnapping as well as the reimbursement of monies paid for a ransom.

“In terms of the response costs, it covers a team of expert consultants who respond 24/7 on a global basis to assist our clients in all aspects of the hostage situation or incident, including negotiation with kidnappers.

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“Our policy also covers the payment of ransom, which is in the form of reimbursement, so the family pays and then we reimburse them the ransom payment. We see many South Africans taking out kidnap and ransom cover. It includes companies where their executives travel for business and high-net-worth individuals."

According to Naylor, the amount of cover varied.

“Due to the confidentiality of the cover, we cannot share the ransom demands of our clients. However, we offer cover starting from smaller amounts such as R500 000, but you will have some clients requesting cover of up to $5 million (US).

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Other companies also provide similar cover.

Last Friday, the SAPS released the second quarterly crime statistics (July 1 to September 30, 2021) which showed 2 000 kidnapping cases were reported during this period.

Most were linked to hijackings but 52 were ransom related. Most of these were reported in Gauteng.

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Last Wednesday, an 11-year-old girl was kidnapped minutes after arriving at her school in Mayfair, Johannesburg.

According to Rickey Nair, the ward councillor in Mayfair: “It has been a week and there has been no word of her whereabouts or if she is unharmed.”

He said the Grade 5 pupil, who is believed to be the daughter of a wealthy foreign businessman, was waiting in line to sanitise her hands at the gate of EP Bauman Primary School when two men with automatic rifles grabbed her. It is alleged that they threatened to shoot school security guards if they intervened.

"They were wearing regular Covid-19 masks and arrived in a Toyota Yaris. They called out to the child, then grabbed her and placed her into the car before speeding off," said Nair.

He said the child's mother was contacted shortly thereafter and told not to speak to police or the media.

Nair said the family, school, parents and teachers were traumatised.

"This has caused a sense of panic not only for the family but for every parent in the community."

He said two businessmen, one from Pakistan and the other from Ethiopia, both residing in Mayfair, were kidnapped on the same day.

Nair said the Pakistani businessman was returned on Monday but there was no word on the return of the Ethiopian.

Panyaza Lesufi, MEC for the Gauteng Department of Education, condemned the actions of the kidnappers.

He appealed for the public to come forward with information to assist with the investigation.

Meanwhile there have been no arrests since the four Moti brothers returned home. Zia,15, Zayyad, 11, Alaan, 13, and Zidan,7, of Polokwane in Limpopo were kidnapped last month on their way to school.

After being held for three weeks they were released on November 11. According to media reports a ransom of R50 million was paid to secure their safety.

Yusuf Abramjee, an anti-crime activist, said several businessmen had been kidnapped in recent weeks.

He called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene, and for international law enforcement to be brought in.

“There is no doubt that we are seeing an escalation in kidnapping cases. I believe that there are now smaller copycat gangs that are trying their luck seeing the bigger gangs are getting away with the kidnappings.

“It is concerning as there are very few arrests. I think we are going to see an escalation if the police don’t get a grip on the situation.

Abramjee said it was important to get the police involved.

“The sole purpose is to get money and, very often, the victim's family will pay the ransom quietly without reporting the matter to police. This is why these criminals are getting away.

“I am pleading to people whose loved one is kidnapped to report it to the police and then follow it through right to the end. We cannot sit back and allow these criminals to get away and continue to terrorise our communities,” he said.

Colonel Athlenda Mathe, a national police spokesperson, said: "We do not comment on cases where the victim is still missing because it may jeopardise the victim's life."

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