Globally, piracy and hostage-taking have been on the upswing for several years. Al-Qaeda and its splinter groups, such as the East African terrorist organization known as Al-Shabaab, have lost most of their primary sources of funding, as a result of U.S. and European anti-money-laundering efforts. Forced to look elsewhere for easy sources of cash, they have turned to piracy, kidnapping and ransom. Currently, at any given time, a global average of 500 individuals are held in captivity for ranson.
The new kidnapping threat
Foreign nationals, employees of international businesses, and passengers and crew on ships at sea are all vulnerable to the risk of being victimized by these criminals. With an average of more than 100 kidnappings per month in Somali waters alone, and a typical settlement in shipping piracy of $3-4M, terrorist organizations have found their new cash cow. The average ransom demand for individuals is $1.15M, and the average settlement is $355,000 per person.
The kidnapping industry has an index of the ransom worth of any given person. The international standard starts at $600,000, regardless of the person’s wealth or social status. If the kidnappers know the identity of their captive, however, the initial figure generally starts much higher.
This new reality poses a frightening challenge for companies conducting international business, and can seem like a daunting obstacle. Many are reluctant to travel at all. Consulting with an expert familiar with this new criminal reality has become crucial. Sunstates Security President Glenn Burrell has extensive training in terrorism studies and the dynamics of hostage taking. His knowledge and connections in government and law enforcement can be a critical component in a company’s ability to evaluate risks, and develop an action plan should an employee fall prey to kidnapping.
An ounce of prevention
Sunstates and its partners can train your company to avoid some commonly overlooked risks and prime target scenarios. “Ninety percent of abductions occur at the point of arrival or departure from home or work,” he explained. “They’re the two primary vulnerabilities.”
Additionally, Burrell advises companies about the repercussions of these crimes. Even when victims are released and unharmed – 94% of kidnap victims survive their experiences, 70% after ransom is paid — victims often suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder, which directly affects both their personal and professional lives. This PTSD spills over to the victim’s colleagues and their family members, as well.
These tips can help global companies reduce the abduction risk of their workforce:
- Employees should dress as locals and avoid showing wealth; for instance, driving an older car can help maintain a low profile.
- Educate employees on local areas where they should and should not travel. Many abductees are mid- or low-level employees, not CEOs. These employees don’t realize how valuable they are. They may wander into places where they shouldn’t be.
- Track employees with GPS chips installed on vehicles, cell phones and even clothing.
Call Sunstates Security today to learn how to protect your employees. Drawing on our international network, we can help you evaluate your current practices and provide an action plan for hostage contingencies.
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