ASIA

Afghanistan

17 October Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister, said an unnamed German woman who is believed to work for the German aid agency, GIZ, had been freed by her kidnappers. She was kidnapped on 17 August in central Kabul when armed men stopped the car she was in and took her captive. He gave no details of her release but thanked the Afghan government, its security forces and Germany’s partners in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. This was the second kidnapping of a GIZ aid worker this year. Another employee of the agency was kidnapped in the northern province of Kunduz, and rescued in a police operation 40 days later.

Bangladesh

24 October An armed gang kidnapped three people who were travelling in an ambulance with a patient in Cox’s Bazaar at around 3:30am. The kidnappers allowed the ambulance driver and the patient to go. The wife of one of the victims said that the kidnappers had called her from her husband’s telephone and demanded Tk5 lakh (USD6,500) ransom. They threatened to kill her husband and his two companions if she failed to pay. The latest kidnapping follows the kidnapping of two tourists and their local guide in Rangamati less than a month ago. Including the three latest victims, 26 people have been kidnapped in the regions of Bandarban, Rangamati and Cox’s Bazaar in the past 10 months. According to police and family sources, 20 of the victims have been released after ransom payments. Two insurgent groups from Myanmar, the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) and the Moro National Party, are said to be behind the kidnappings.

India

5 October Chennai City police said in a statement that Abishek (19), an engineering college dropout and son of businessman dealing in herbal products, Ravisundaram, was rescued after being kidnapped on 3 October. The victim went out to meet a newly acquired girlfriend but failed to return home. His father received a call claiming his son had been kidnapped and demanding a ransom of Rs.2 crore (USD320,000). The police advised Ravisundaram to meet the kidnappers with the ransom money at Pallavaram, the place that they had nominated for the handover. The kidnappers appeared in a vehicle along with the victim in a second car driven by a woman, but noticed the police presence and tried to escape. The car became bogged down and the police arrested four suspects, including a woman, and rescued the victim. Investigations revealed that a former employee and his lover had plotted the kidnapping but he has yet to be arrested.

7 October An Assam based doctor and owner of a private hospital in Dibrugah, Assam, Hemhari Pegu, who was allegedly kidnapped from New Delhi, returned to his Dibrugah home after 12 days but refused to provide any information to the police. On 23 September, the doctor travelled to Delhi and left his hotel in the evening claiming he needed to get tatkal tickets arranged for Chandigarh. On 25 September, his wife reported to the police that she had not been able to contact him for two days. On 27 September, his wife received a telephone call from an unidentified person who claimed the doctor had borrowed Rs.5 crore (USD802,500). The caller also said he had kidnapped the doctor who would be released once he received his money giving two days for the family to pay. The kidnappers’ deadline kept changing from 29 September to 2 October. Also the multiple numbers from where the calls came were tracked to Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Nagaland. On 6 October, the doctor’s wife called the police to report her husband had returned but did not reply when asked if she had paid a ransom and disconnected the call. The police have arrested a notorious car thief.

8 October Virudhunagar police rescued the five year old daughter of Suresh Kumar who runs a printing press in Tiruthangai. The girl was kidnapped as she left school at around 4:30pm on 7 October. While her parents were searching for her, at around 5:30pm, her father received a photograph through Whatsapp of his daughter with a knife held against her neck. Later an unidentified person called demanding a ransom of Rs.2 crore (USD321,000) and stating they were travelling on a train and would throw the girl out of the train if their demands were not met. Suresh Kumar said he did not have the money and offered Rs.10 lakh (USD16,000). The caller then demanded Rs.50 lakh (USD80,000). The police were notified and mounted vehicle checks during which the vehicle used by the kidnappers was identified and the girl rescued. Two men, one a cousin of the victim’s father, were arrested.

18 October Nearly two days after he was allegedly kidnapped, the body of Mohit Pravin Baviskar (17) was found by villagers in Sapgaon, Trimbakeshwar. The victim had been kidnapped during the night of 14 October while returning to his room from a friend’s residence in Nashik where he was studying. The following afternoon, the victim’s parents received two calls from his mobile telephone, the first in Hindi and second in Marathi, demanding a ransom of Rs.20 lakh (USD32,100). There were no instructions about the payment. The family reported the matter to the police. There were no further contacts but the police received a report that a body had been found that was identified as that of the victim.

FAR EAST

Hong Kong

28 October Huang Jianming (23), a farmer, was jailed for 34 months after pleading guilty to money laundering and another count of conspiracy to launder money. He was connected to two telephone scams in which he claimed to have kidnapped a member of a family. In the first on 10 June 2015, he called a 62 year old woman with a ransom demand claiming her son had been kidnapped. He settled on a payment of HK$180,000 (USD23,200) before the woman realised her son was safe and called the police. On 2 July 2015, he called Cheung (20), a student on summer break from Cambridge in North Point. He claimed that his son had been kidnapped. Cheung sensed it was a scam and adopted a “grandmotherly” voice to negotiate. At the same time he called the police. Cheung agreed to pay HK$100,000 (USD12,900) and left the money where Huang directed. When he came to collect it, the police were waiting and arrested him.

Malaysia

4 October Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said that information from the East Sabah Security Command (Esscom) indicated Thien Nyuk Fun (50) and Bernard Then Ted Fen (39) were safe but refused to reveal further information citing concerns that it would jeopardise investigations and negotiations. The two were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants on 14 May 2015 from the Ocean King seafood restaurant owned by Thien in Sandakan, Sabah. However, a report on 5 October said that there had been information from unnamed sources that the Abu Sayyaf militants were planning to behead Bernard Then as he has leg injuries and is unable to run with the militants who are being chased by the Philippine security forces. The two hostages are being held by Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Indang Susukan who has demanded 30 million pesos (USD670,400) for their release. Families of the two Malaysians have been receiving calls from the kidnappers threatening to carry out the beheading unless the ransom is paid fast.

10 October Four men were arrested by the police in connection with the kidnapping of a five year old boy, Li Zhi Yang, in Kajang, Selangor, the previous day. The boy was snatched from his mother outside a kindergarten in Sungai Chua, Kajang. The kidnappers contacted his family and demanded RM300,000 (USD82,200) that they paid and he was released. A taxi driver brought him home some eight hours after he was kidnapped. The taxi driver was among the four men arrested. The police recovered most of the RM300,000 ransom money. On 26 October the victim’s father bought print advertisement to thank the taxi driver and to announce they were absolutely certain he was not involved in the kidnapping.

18 October During a security briefing to resort operators that took place at the Pulau Mabul police station near Semporna, Datuk Mohamad Rahim Mohamad, Chief of Staff at the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) operations centre, said that nine kidnapping for ransom attempts had been foiled since July 2014 as a result of the curfew in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone). He added that the kidnappers are targeting tourists diving in certain areas and attributed the success to cooperation from all quarters including resort operators in the zone.

Philippines

5 October Senior Superintendent Roberto Fajardo, Director, Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG), said during a press briefing that of the 25 reported kidnappings from January to September 2015, a drop from 50 cases for the whole of 2014, at least ten cases were “kidnap-me” hoax kidnappings. This is one less than the 11 hoax cases for 2014. Six of the cases were perpetrated by Filipinos, two by Koreans and two by British citizens. A British citizen was “rescued” by the AKG on 1 October in Bulacan who admitted he pretended to have been kidnapped two weeks ago to obtain a ransom from his family in London.

7 October Rolando del Torchio (56), an Italian businessman and former Catholic missionary, was kidnapped by at least six unidentified gunmen at about 7:00pm from his pizza restaurant, UrChoice Pizza Cafe, inside the Andres Bonifacio College compound, Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte. According to eye witness reports, four of the kidnappers posed as customers before the victim was dragged into a waiting vehicle and taken to two motor boats that fled under the cover of darkness. The security forces mounted land and sea searches for the missing man.

9 October The Governor of Zamboanga Sibugay, Wilter Palma, said that he had heard, but it was not official, that the kidnappers of Gemma Adana, Naga Mayor, were asking P15 million (USD335,200) to P30 million (USD670,400) for her safe release. The kidnappers are dealing directly with the victim’s family. She was kidnapped on 6 April 2015 while with her family, friends and visitors at her home in Barangay Taytay Manubo, Zamboanga Sibugay, by gunmen who forced their way into her home. The authorities have received reports that the victim was taken by her kidnappers to Sulu and handed over to Abu Sayyaf militants. On 13 October, Brigadier General Allan Arrojado, commander of the joint Task Group Sulu, said that the victim had been released but no ransom was paid. Later, sources said that a ransom of P2.5 million (USD55,865) was paid by family and friends adding that the kidnappers originally demanded P10 million (USD223,460) but agreed to reduce the amount following months of negotiations. Another source claimed that P8.5 million (USD189,950) was paid for the victim’s release but doubted whether the family could have raised such a high amount.

13 October Three weeks after the kidnapping of Canadians, John Ridsdel (68), Robert Hall (50), Norwegian, Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina, Marites Flores, Hall’s girlfriend, the kidnappers posted a two minute video of the four hostages online. Surrounded by masked gunmen, each takes turns speaking to the camera. One says “please help us” and another “please meet their demands or we’ll be possibly dead”. The video does not contain explicit demands but one of the militants urges the Philippine authorities to cease military assaults “against us”. He continues: “Once you meet our requirements, then we can talk about negotiations and demand”. The four hostages were kidnapped on 21 September when 11 gunmen stormed the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort off Mindanao. John Ridsdel also asked the Philippine government to stop the ongoing military operations against Abu Sayyaf.

19 October Because of the serious threat to foreign nationals from kidnapping, young maths wizards and officials from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Singapore, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, India, Nepal and South Africa have withdrawn from the 15 nation Challenge for Future Mathematicians (CFM) that the Philippines is due to host in Manila from 26 to 29 October. Delegates from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have said they will take part. The contest organisers, the Mathematics Trainers Guild Philippines, said the event will go ahead.

20 October Philippine National Police sources in Jolo said that Nonong Garcia, Finance Manager of Tumbagaan Mining, was released by his kidnappers after being kidnapped on 3 May 2015 in Tawi Tawi province. It was reported that the victim’s family had said a ransom of P1.3 million (USD29,000) was paid for the victim’s release. The military refused to confirm that a ransom had been paid stating that the victim had been released due to intense military operations.

31 October The body of Hong Nwi-Seong (74), a South Korean, was found in a sack on a roadside in Patikul town, Jolo island. The victim had been kidnapped by five gunmen from his house in Roseller Lim town, southern Zamboanga Sibugay Province, on 24 January 2015 by Abu Sayyaf militants. The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of 500 million pesos (USD10.6 million) but later reduced it drastically when the victim became ill. It would appear that he died from his illness and the militants brought the body down from their jungle encampment before leaving it by the roadside.

Singapore

12 October There has been an increase in kidnap telephone scams this year. In a typical scam, a victim receives a call from someone pretending to be a relative in distress. A “kidnapper” then comes on the line and demands the victim pays a ransom usually to an overseas bank account. During the first six months in 2015, 241 scam attempts have been reported, up from 216 during the same period in 2014. Of theses, 22 victims were cheated of a total SGD98,100 (USD70,575). There were 178 reported scams in 2013 of which 13 were successful. In 2014, there were 422 reported scam attempts of which 40 were successful and victims paid a total of SGD113,700 (USD81,800). The largest recorded ransom payment was SGD45,000 (USD32,375).

Taiwan

28 October Police reported that Wong-Yuk Kwan (67), Chairman of Hong Kong listed Pearl Oriental Oil exploration company, was found manacled and blindfolded in a shack in a western Taiwan village during a rescue operation mounted by the police the previous evening. His face was bruised and his legs covered in cuts. He had been kidnapped on 20 September 2015 outside Taipei. In e-mails to the victim’s office in Hong Kong, the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of HK$70 million (USD9 million) to be paid in virtual currency, bitcoins. Fifteen people, including one of the alleged masterminds, were arrested over the kidnapping. Those arrested were allegedly linked to the Taiwan based United Bamboo triad gang, one of the world’s largest organised crime groups with around 10,000 members. United Bamboo is engaged in drug and human trafficking, loan sharking, control of prostitutes and arms trafficking. The victim was visiting Taipei for medical treatment. He is still facing charges brought against him and Pearl Oriental Oil executives in 2013 by Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog and is on HK$5 million bail. He is accused with three others of fraud and money laundering relating to the acquisition of an oilfield in the US. The police later said that the kidnappers had threatened to dig out the eyeballs or chop off the legs of their victim as the family had only paid HK13 million USD1.67 million or 5015BTC) in ransom by the deadline. The police are trying to trace the bitcoin transaction or the bitcoin wallet that received the ransom. It is believed that the gang are a cross border syndicate run from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Cai Wen-li of the United Bamboo gang is thought to be one of the leaders responsible for directing the kidnapping gang. The police are trying to retrieve deleted WeChat messages on mobile telephones to track down the masterminds behind the kidnapping.

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