Kidnap and Ransom

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  1. Ransom Payments Made to Kidnappers Each Year:$1.5 Billion

Kidnap and Ransom

News, information and statistics about kidnap for ransom activities. Data about the security threat is collected from intelligence reports, security companies, kidnap for ransom insurance brokers, hostage negotiators and other public information.

An investigation by the New York Times found that Al Queada and its affiliates have taken at least $125 million in revenue from kidnapping for ransom since 2008. Roughly half, or $66 Million, was paid out in 2013.

The United States Treasury put the total at $165 million for the same period.

Since 2008, the following countries have paid Al Qaeda the following amounts (given in 2014 US dollars) for releasing kidnapped citizens:

  • France: $58.1 Million
  • Qatar and Oman: $20.4 Million
  • Switzerland: $12.4 Million
  • Spain: $11 Million
  • Austria: $3.2 Million
  • Undetermined Countries: $21.4 Million

Analysis conducted by the NY Times found that 15 percent of hostages that have been taken by Al Qaeda between 2008 and 2014 were executed or died in captivity.

Source: Rukmini Callimachi, “Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror,” New York Times, July 29, 2014

Based on statistics about kidnapping released in Mexico, there were 4,051 kidnapping victims across Mexico that were officially reported to criminal justice programs between December 2012 and February 28, 2014. 2,922 of the kidnapping victims were released, while 1,129 victims were still being held for ransom.

71 percent of the kidnapping victims were males. 69 percent of the victims were also considered to be non-affluent. These victims were middle class workers, shop owners students and mid-level professionals. Security intelligence and other research into the kidnap-for-ransom industry in Mexico have found that organized crime groups are now targeting these middle class workers in an attempt to expand the number of potential targets. The kidnappers charge a lower ransom demand, usually around $7,669 (100,000 Mexican Pesos), but are able to target a greater number of people instead of just targeting executives and wealthy families.

Source:  Sergio Ramos, “Mexico: The fight to end kidnapping,” Infosurhoy, April 11, 2014.

According to the British Ambassador to the United Nations, terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda has made at least $105 Million between 2010 and 2013 from kidnapping hostages and releasing them for a ransom payment.

The United Nations Security Council stated that countries should not pay ransom demands in order to cut off this funding stream for Al Qaeda.

Kidnapping for ransom has been a profitable activity for Al Qaeda groups in the Middle East. Previously, it was reported that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has made up to $20 Million between 2010 to 2012 from kidnapping.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is based in Northern Africa, is estimated to have made several million dollars from ransom payments in the last ten years. In 2011, the average ransom payment made to AQIM was reported to be $5.4 Million per hostage.

(More kidnap for ransom statistics.)

Source:  AFP, “Al-Qaeda groups reap $100 million in ransoms,” Google News, January 27, 2014.


Risk consultancy firm  Control Risks released their Risk Map 2014, which highlights the areas of potential threats in 2014.

In the report, the company highlighted the countries in 2013 that had the most incidents of kidnapping for ransom during the year.

The top 5 countries where kidnapping for ransom took place are as follows:

1. Mexico
2. India
3. Nigeria
4. Pakistan
5. Venezuela

The Asia Pacific region had the most reported incidents, with 35 percent of all global kidnappings reported.

Source:  Steven Perlberg, “The 20 Countries Where People Get Kidnapped The Most,” Business Insider, December 12, 2013.

Full Report: “Risk Map 2014,” Control Risks.

A report release by researchers at  Tilburg University in the Netherlands found that around 25,000 to 30,000 children were kidnapped and held for ransom by senior military officers with the Eritrea’s military between 2007 and 2012.

According to the report, all students in Eritrea are required to serve at a military camp in order to graduate from high school. At the camp, children between 16 to 17 years old would be kidnapped by military officers. While in captivity, the officers would call the victims family to demand a ransom. According to interviews conducted with survivors, the soldiers would demand a ransom payment of $7,500 to release the victim. If the families were unable to pay the ransom demand, then the military would sell the children to Bedouin traffickers.

In total, the researchers estimate that up to $600 Million in ransom have been paid out to the military.

(Cost of a human sold by traffickers.)

Source:  Martin Plaut, “Eritrea’s military is trafficking the nation’s children, report says,” Guardian, December 3, 2013.

United States Federal investigators broke up a virtual kidnapping ring that was randomly targeting immigrants and telling them that loved ones were being held hostage.

The callers, based in Tijuana, Mexico, made up to 5,000 calls a day to numbers in the Washington DC area. That region was targeted due to its high number of Central American immigrants.  The callers would tell the people that answered the phones that relatives were kidnapped, and that a ransom must be paid in order for the person to be released. The callers had no idea whether the victim actually had a loved one traveling, but simply played the odds that eventually someone will take the bait.

On average, the victims usually paid between $1,000 to $3,000. The money was sent to payment centers in San Diego and was then smuggled into Tijuana. Investigators state that this one group made at least $500,000 over six years.

In Latin America, cellphones are smuggled into prisons where prisoners are able to conduct these types of scams for their gang. Social media profiles are monitored in order to gain credible intelligence on their victims.

Couriers who pick up the money from payment centers are paid 10 percent of the ransom for their services.

(Jobs and income from crime and other under the table activities.)

Source:  Associated Press, “APNewsBreak: 4 Charged in ‘Virtual Kidnappings’,” ABC News, November 9, 2013.

In 2013, it was reported that the Mexican drug cartel Knights Templar was earning over $6 Million a month in various black market activities.

Based on intelligence agencies estimates, media organizations in Mexico stated that the cartel was earning $2.2 Million each month transporting illegal drugs. $1 Million was collected each month through extortion threats to local businesses, and another $1 Million raised from extorting local government officials. An addition $600,000 in illicit income was generated from car theft and kidnapping for ransom.

$1.3 Million in revenue was generated from legitimate businesses that the cartel operates. These businesses are also used as money laundering venues to launder the black market funds.

It should be noted that these funds are separate from any profits that the drug cartel earns from illegal drugs sales in the United States.

(More money laundering techniques here.)

Source:  Charles Parkinson, “Mexico’s Knights Templar Earns $73 Mn Before US Drug Profits,” Insight Crime, November 8, 2013.

According to a report released by Interpol, the United Nations and the World Bank, the average ransom payment received by pirates in Somalia between 2005 and 2012 was $2.7 Million. The total haul in ransom payments made to the pirates during that time period was estimated to be between $339 Million and $413 Million.

The average pirate working on the crew was paid between $30,000 to $75,000 per person. If the pirate was the first to board a ship, or brought their own ladder or weapon, then the pirate would receive a $10,000 bonus.

(More income from the underground economy.)

Operating costs such as food was also deducted from the pirates total payment. When a pirate used a mobile phone while at sea, the rate for the airtime was $20.

Many of the pirate crews had outside investors who would help finance the attack. According to the study, a typical pirate attack had three to five investors.

(Additional money laundering cases.)

Source:  “Somali piracy: More sophisticated than you though,” Economist, November 2, 2013.

Security officials estimate that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has extorted up to $20 Million between 2010 to 2012 from kidnapping and ransom activities. Intelligence agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom believe that kidnapping for ransom is the largest source of revenue for the AQAP.

The ransom money paid to the  group is used to finance its operations in Yemen, where it is primarily active along with Saudi Arabia. Intelligence officials state that the ransom money allows the group to pay fighters and families of those who died. The group also participates in providing social services and infrastructure projects in Yemen.

AQAP turned to kidnapping for ransom after Western governments shut down its revenue stream by cracking down on money-transferring services from wealthy supporters.

AQAP is not the only Al Qaeda affiliate who is actively involved in kidnapping. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in Mali and Northern Africa, also funds its activities through ransom payments. The average ransom payout to the AQIM was $5.4 Million in 2011.

Source:  Ken Dilanian, “Al Qaeda group is operating on ransom money from the West,” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2013.

Criminal justice officials in the Pakistani city of Karachi reported that there were 148 cases of kidnapping for ransom in the first 9 months of 2013, the highest number of kidnappings reported in the city in two decades. 129 cases have been solved.

Intelligence analysts state that there are mainly 5 kidnapping groups operating in Karachi.The targets of the kidnappings are generally wealthy businessman such as bankers or their children. The victims are abducted into pick-ups are are taken out of the city where they are held for ransom. In the ransom demands to families, the kidnappers demand between $941 to $2,823 (100,000  to 300,000 Pakistani Rupee) in ransom. Security officials have reported that if the ransom is not paid, then the hostage is killed and dumped.

35 percent of all kidnapping cases in Karachi involved domestic workers helping the kidnappers.

Source: Salis bin Perwaiz, “Number of kidnapping cases this year highest in two decades,” News International, October 7, 2013.