Bitcoin Ransom Suspects Arrested In South Africa For Kidnapping

Crime, News | January 23, 2019 By:

South Africa authorities have arrested two suspects alleged to be behind the kidnapping of a teenage boy, whose family was then told to pay ransom in bitcoin.

Local news outlet Times Live reported that the incident happened in May 20, 2018 in Witbank. The 13-year-old boy was reportedly kidnapped “in broad daylight” just meters from his house. The kidnappers allegedly demanded just over $100,000 worth of bitcoin in exchange for the safe return of the teenage boy. A few days later, the boy was reunited with his family unharmed. However, South African police had not disclosed whether any ransom had been paid for his safe return.

The suspects behind the kidnapping are reportedly men aged 30 and 31. One was nabbed in November 2018 in Germiston in Gauteng, while the second was arrested in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on December 30. According to the police, the suspects also attempted to kidnap a 13-year-old girl in Aerorand on August 21, 2018, but the girl shouted for help and was heard by a group of people working nearby, who swiftly came to her aid and helped her escape. The two suspects appeared in court on Tuesday and were granted R1,000 ($72 USD) bail each.

“These cases were the first of their kind in Mpumalanga and a task team comprising of different units within the South African Police Service was immediately established by police management to investigate this matter,” said Brigadier Leonard Hlathi. “The dedicated formations left no stone unturned in their investigation, knitting all clues and eventually their efforts yielded positive results as the suspects were arrested thereafter at different locations.”

A similar incident took place in Ukraine in December 2017. Pavel Lerner, the head of Analytics and Trading for UK-based bitcoin exchange EXMO, was kidnapped while leaving his office in Kiev’s Obolon district. At the time, Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said that Lerner was released after a $1 million bitcoin ransom was paid.