A South African businessman whose captors had allegedly demanded bitcoins as ransom has been freed.
Liyaqat Parker, a businessman based in Cape Town, South Africa, was released on Monday according to a statement issued by his family. However, the circumstances of his release, including whether the bitcoin ransom was paid, remain unclear as his family declined to divulge further information.
The Cape Town businessman was kidnapped a little over two months ago and his captors reportedly demanded 50 bitcoins before they could release him according to The South African. Parker, who is the proprietor of South Africa’s Foodworld supermarket chain, was accosted at gunpoint by five men as he was driving to his business premises. At the time, however, Parker’s family denied that a ransom demand, in bitcoin or otherwise, had been made.
“The family is waiting for the kidnappers to contact them. They have not received contact from anybody demanding anything,” Walid Brown, a spokesperson for the family said at the time according to The Times. “[There has been] lots of information from people that have tips‚ they’ve had hundreds of calls but no credible information.”
Alternative to Cash
Due to its relatively anonymous nature, bitcoin has proved popular as a means of paying ransom besides cash. Last year in December, for instance, an analyst at crypto exchange EXMO, Pavel Lerner, was kidnapped in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and a ransom of US$1 million in bitcoin demanded by his captors.
Unlike in the Liyaqat Parker case where the circumstances of his release remain unclear, the bitcoin ransom for Lerner was actually paid though as CCN.com reported at the time, it was not clarified whether the ransom was paid by Lerner, his family or his employer. At the time of the incident, the EXMO cryptocurrency exchange had around 900,000 users.
This was not an isolated incident in Europe as a month prior a gang of kidnappers had been busted in Turkey. Among those the Turkish gang had kidnapped included a flashy businessman from whom they stole 450 bitcoins, which were worth approximately more than US$3 million at the time, before releasing him in an ordeal that lasted about eight hours. The gang had identified him as a target after noticing him showing off his wealth on social media.
Additionally, the Indian state of Punjab also witnessed a series of kidnappings last year where the captors demanded that the ransom be paid in bitcoin. In each instance of the kidnapping wave that was targeting property sellers mostly, a ransom of 20 bitcoins was demanded. The suspected mastermind turned out to be a stock market investor and bank employee identified as Deepak, as CCN.com reported.
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