Posts Tagged ‘ransom’

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Why it was right to refuse James Foley’s ransom

August 22, 2014

ISIS demanded a $132 million ransom a week prior to their beheading of American journalist James Foley. The New York Times reports that the U.S. declined to pay.

Several commentators including David Rohde of Reuters and James Traub of Foreign Policy have taken the opportunity to question the so-called “U.S. and U.K.” policy against paying ransoms.

Actually, refusing to pay ransoms to terrorists isn’t just an idiosyncrasy of American and British policy; it is international law. UN Resolution 1904 forbids the payment of ransoms. Furthermore, an agreement by the G8 in 2013 pledged to refrain from paying ransoms.

The critics of the “U.S.” no-ransom policy omit this information either out of laziness or bias.  True, some European governments pay ransoms under the table, which is very damaging to international security, but that is in violation of international accords and their own publicly stated policies.

Transferring funds of any kind from the U.S. to ISIS would also constitute material support for a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. Code 2339B.

Not only is America prohibited from paying ransoms under international law, agreements, and domestic law, but it would also be foolish to pay ransoms to terrorist groups. Funding an enemy group that the U.S. Air Force is simultaneously carrying out missions against would be, to put it mildly, illogical. Paying ransoms to ISIS would also aid the enemy of Iraq–a nation that U.S. troops fought alongside with to protect from insurgent terrorism.

Moreover, paying ransoms only serves to increase the likelihood that Americans and other Westerners living or traveling in the Middle East will be kidnapped. Payments also drive up the price of the ransoms demanded.

Critics would have you believe that it’s time for “a debate” about paying ransoms. The debate came and went when Resolution 1904 passed the UN. The would-be ransom payers lost the debate back then.

In summary, abductions are tragic but they will be more commonplace if we started complying with ransom demands.

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Mexican extortion scheme spreads to Texas

August 14, 2014

“Virtual kidnapping” ransom schemes have migrated from Mexico to El Paso according to border city medical doctors. Criminal groups call the physicians and tell them a loved one has been kidnapped, and demand that a ransom payment be wired to Mexico.

This development is ominous because it indicates the spread of socially destabilizing extortion rackets from the Northern Triangle and Mexico into a U.S. border state. Whether drug cartels, human smugglers, cuota syndicates, street gangs, or garden variety con artists are behind the scheme isn’t really the point.

The thing to do is to educate the people who are at risk for being targeted, to persuade them to report such incidents to law enforcement, and to refuse payment. Otherwise, if the ball really gets rolling and Americans comply with ransom demands more often, then that will drive up the amounts demanded and the trend will become more difficult to stop.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “doctors without borders”… From the El Paso Times (h/t @1389):

‘Virtual kidnapping’ scam targets El Paso doctors

Scam strikes area medical professionals, does not appear cartel-related

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

Posted:   08/02/2014

A terrifying telephone scam known as a “virtual kidnapping” is targeting doctors in El Paso and other Texas border cities.

An El Paso Police Department spokesman on Friday confirmed that police are aware of the extortion scam and a warning that has been circulating among the local medical community about the threatening phone calls, which purportedly come from a drug cartel.

The scheme is a new version of similar telephone scams and “there is nothing to indicate” it is cartel related, police spokesman Officer Javier Sambrano said. The number of reported doctor scam cases was not available.

Virtual kidnappings sprung up in Mexico several years ago feeding off fears of drug violence and abductions. It is called a “virtual kidnapping” because the victim is made to believe a loved one has been abducted when no kidnapping has taken place.

In the latest version, a person calls a doctor’s office and asks for a doctor by name. The caller claims to be from a drug cartel and that the cartel has kidnapped the doctor’s son or daughter. There is sometimes a crying child on the phone. The caller barks instructions, demands a ransom amount and the victim is ordered to wire the money to Mexico.

The victim does not realize no one has been actually kidnapped until after sending the money.

“It is important to take a minute to step back, try to think and remain calm,” Sambrano said.

The scam has been reported in other parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

Last month in South Texas, KRGV reported that a doctor in McAllen received a call claiming that his daughter had been kidnapped by the Zetas cartel. The caller demanded $50,000 or they would deliver his daughter’s head in a bag. Then, a girl crying and begging for her life was put on the phone. The doctor said that the call seemed frighteningly real for about 30 seconds before he became suspicious.

No ransom was paid. The doctor’s daughter was safe and had never been kidnapped.

In April, the FBI website warned about virtual kidnappings targeting U.S. citizens staying in hotels in Mexico.

“Callers impersonate themselves as cartel members or corrupt police officers who claim they’ve kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom,” according to an FBI podcast. The victim is told to follow instructions in a scam that can run for three days. The FBI said that scammers are suspected to be Mexican prisoners using smuggled phones.

The FBI said the calls have warning signs — the calls come from an outside area code, the ransom is only accepted by wire transfer and the calls never come from the victim’s phone.

Sambrano said the calls are a variation of the “emergency” or “relative in Mexico” telephone scams that have previously hit the El Paso region. In those scams, a caller tricks a victim into believing they are a relative in Mexico. They usually start a call saying “Guess who it is?” They then claim to be the person that the victim guessed. The caller usually says they are coming to visit but then call to say they have been in an accident or arrested in Mexico and ask for money to be wired to save them from their predicament…

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Paks blame Afghans for extortion in Peshawar

June 20, 2014

What unbelievable gall Pakistani intelligence is demonstrating by blaming “Afghan nationals” for ongoing extortion, kidnap-for-ransom, and murder-for-hire schemes in Peshawar.

It was Pakistani intelligence that created and funded the Taliban and other jihadist groups in the first place to give Pakistan “strategic depth” in their ruthless desire to gain any conceivable edge over India. It was Pakistan that funded radical curriculum and instruction at madrassas and Afghan orphanages.

Now that their efforts have begun turning their own cities into charnel houses, they’re distancing themselves from their own creation.

Pakistan didn’t seem to mind harboring Osama Bin Laden, because he didn’t attack Pakistan while he lived there. But Pakistan does mind when his buddies start making mischief on their own streets.

Message to Pakistan: you made your own bed, now lie in it.

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Lessons learned from 6 big terrorist windfalls

April 29, 2014

Terror finance trials over the last ten years have frequently involved transfers by individuals of a few thousand dollars to terrorist organizations abroad. Sometimes those cases get as much attention from the news media and law enforcement as multi-million dollar cases of funding terrorism.

This tendency is unfortunate because it causes us to lose sight of the big time patrons of terrorism and their methods. Small transfers are likelier to involve individual actors, small groups, and criminal activity. High-dollar terrorist transactions are likelier to involve state sponsorship, or at least large organizations such as major charities, and sometimes corporations which are targeted for extortion or kidnapping-for-ransom schemes by militants. Consider:

• France paid $15 to $20 million to the Taliban for the 2011 release of reporters Stéphane Taponier and Hervé Ghesquière. France may have also paid a $34 million ransom to Al Qaeda in North Africa for the release of four captives last year, and an $18 million ransom just last week to release four journalists abducted by Syrian rebels.

• The Holy Land Foundation, largest Islamic “charity” in the U.S. in the early 2000s, gave $12.4 million to Hamas. George W. Bush said that the money HLF raised was “used by Hamas to recruit suicide bombers and support their families.” The leaders of HLF were found guilty of providing material support to terrorism and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in federal prison.

• Qatar has spent an estimated $3 billion (or, less credibly, $5 billion) to fund Al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria. In so doing they’ve helped turn Syria into a charnel house with over 150,000 dead since 2011.

• Carlos the Jackal received, according to different accounts, either $20 million or $50 million from the Saudi government in 1975 to release the OPEC ministers he had taken hostage. Allegedly, this money wasn’t used by Carlos himself but was pumped back toward international terrorist causes. Eventually, Carlos the Jackal was caught and sentenced to life in prison in France on separate charges.

• The Born brother heirs to the multinational Bunge and Born corporation were forced to pay a $60 million ransom to leftwing Montoneros terrorists in Argentina in 1974. Some of the money may have been kept in shadowy Argentine and Cuban banks. Mario Firmenich, mastermind of the plot, was convicted in 1987.

• The Palestinian Authority just pledged another $74 million to spend as incentives and stipends for terrorist “martyrs” and their families from their annual budget.

Several lessons should be learned from the above sampling of terrorist jackpots:

1. Don’t pay ransoms. Paying ransoms is the quickest way to fund millions of dollars worth of future terrorist attacks and to increase the likelihood of larger ransom demands down the road.

2. In cases of suspected terrorist financing, always look at both the source and the beneficiary of the funding—not just one party in isolation. With the Holy Land Foundation, we tend to focus mostly on HLF as a contributor, without examining how Hamas uses Islamic charities in the West to finance its operations. Likewise in the Taponier and Ghesquière case, what little coverage there was in English language media focused on the ransom negotiations and French foreign policy, while completely ignoring the aftermath of what the Taliban and the Baryal Qari group did with the money. We learn more from each case when we look at both sides of the equation. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Arab gangs to captives: pay up or lose organs

March 17, 2014

This is a follow up to earlier Money Jihad coverage of the organ trade that enriches Bedouins and Hamas.  If anything, the ransom demands appear to be increasing as captives’ relatives in Europe pay off the abductors.

Sweden is specifically named as one of the countries where ransom demands to relatives have been successful.  Perhaps Swedish authorities should look apply more scrutiny to financial transfers made to that region of the world, to ensure that migrants in their own country aren’t inflating ransom demands and keeping the illicit organ market in business.

From IB Times (h/t to @PaulWilko657):

Europol: Arab Gangs Threatening to Kill and Sell Organs of Africa Migrants

  • By Lewis Dean March 5, 2014

Arab gangs are threatening to kill and sell the organs of African migrants if relatives refuse to pay ransoms in time.

European crime agency Europol has said the migrants are being kidnapped by criminals who then demand family and friends living in Europe pay thousands of euros for their release.

The agency has warned EU law enforcement authorities about the kidnapping of ‘irregular migrants’ and the subsequent extortion of their relatives or friends who are residing in Europe.

Ransoms extorted have ranged from €4,400 to €25,700 and have involved multiple negotiation steps where the amount demanded by kidnappers has increased incrementally.

Payments were made to multiple cash handlers used by organised criminal groups in locations inside and outside of Europe.

The agency said individuals orginally from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, but who now live in Sweden, and at least two other European countries have been subject to extortion as relatives are held hostage and tortured in the Sinai Peninsula, in Eygpt.

The extortion operations were run by organised criminals of Bedouin origin, who exploit irregular migrants who had been kidnapped in Eritrea and Sudan.

In some cases, hostages have been provided with phones to call European contacts and request cash for their release.

In one instance, a victim’s friend living in Sweden was contacted by two Swedish-speaking suspects on local mobile phone numbers demanding €24,000 for a victim being held in the Sinai.

Threatening that non-compliance would result in the victim’s death and sale of their organs, the suspects attempted to arrange face-to-face meetings in Sweden for the handover of ransom payments…

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Top terror finance stories of 2013

December 30, 2013

From massacres on the streets of Syria to the streets of Boston, 2013 has offered far too many illustrations of how terror-borne bloodshed is financed:

  1. Sunni and Western powers risk funding Syrian rebels despite their Al Qaeda allegiance
    Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the U.S., U.K., and France have provided money and supplies to the enemies of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad despite the risk of the materiel falling into the wrong hands.  Gulf-based support has gone directly toward Salafist fighters; Western aid has been targeted toward the supposedly moderate Free Syrian Army, but entire brigades of the FSA have pledged allegiance to al-Nusra Front—Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria—during 2013.  Reports this month of a “suspension” of U.S. aid have been somewhat exaggerated; as one official conceded, “the suspension of aid only applies to the opposition in northern Syria, adding that supply lines from Jordan in the south would continue.”  Foreign support has prolonged the conflict in Syria and increased the chances for Al Qaeda to take over the country.
  2. Boston marathon bombing made possible by Saudi money
    North Caucuses militants have been funded for decades by Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis and their wealthy expatriate terrorists like Ibn al-Khattab  and Osama Bin Laden and invested millions of dollars into the training and recruitment of fighters, the construction of radical mosques, and the creation of jihadist websites in Slavic languages.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev read and engaged with these websites and pursued support from these Saudi-sponsored sources when he traveled to Russia in 2012.  Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar also learned from Inspire magazine by deceased terror imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who presided over Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.In effect, Saudi money created the breeding environment both online and on the ground in the North Caucuses in which the Tsarnaevs’ plot was hatched.

    Sadly, the media and public officials have been slow to recognize and expose the connections between the Saudis, the North Caucasus militants, and their followers living in North America.  Two Democrat-appointed federal judges inexplicably reversed the conviction this year of Pete Seda, a Muslim “peace activist” who sent money through a Saudi-based charity from Oregon to Chechen terrorists in the early 2000s.

  3. The U.S. became the world’s #1 energy producer in 2013.  This development reduces our dependence on Arab oil and the flow of petrodollars that fund terrorism.
  4. The compensation of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism was ignored during negotiations in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program.
  5. The Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab’s finances rebounded in 2013 despite their loss of control in 2012 of the key harbor in Kismayo to Kenyan, African Union, and allied forces.  The main ingredients in their financial resurgence included an expansion al-Shabaab’s lucrative charcoal smuggling operation, the resumption of payments from the Dahabshiil money service to al-Shabaab, and indirect support from the Gulf.  The funding has allowed operations such as killing sprees in Mogadishu and the September terrorist attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya.  Nevertheless, a British court injunction has forced Barclays to continue partnering with Dahabshiil to facilitate remittances to Somalia.
  6. Read the rest of this entry ?
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OPEC hostage shared goals of captors

December 20, 2013

Thirty-eight years ago today, Carlos the Jackal and his band of terrorists forced their way into a meeting of OPEC in Vienna, Austria.  The terrorists eventually received millions of dollars from OPEC’s member nations to secure the release of the hostages after a trans-Mediterranean flight to Algeria.

OPEC leader Sheikh Yamani was spared for two reasons:  1) he paid off Carlos the Jackal, and 2) he also believed in armed Palestinian resistance against Israel.  Carlos’s fellow terrorists never understood why Yamani was a target.

From the documentary “Terror’s Advocate”:

After all, Yamani had orchestrated the Arab oil embargo that damaged the West economically, and Yamani would later fund Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, according to the Golden Chain document.  So Yamani was really on the same ideological side as Carlos and Arab terrorist groups from the outset.

The other thing is that radical Muslims have always wanted to control the oil in Saudi Arabia.  Although the Saudi royals are Siamese twins with the radical Wahhabi clerics, and impose strict sharia law against their subjects, the government of Saudi Arabia is seen by Islamists as too friendly to the West from a foreign policy standpoint.  Perhaps Carlos regarded Yamani as a representative of the “establishment,”—or perhaps they had worked out a side deal all along.

Today’s jihadists want control of Arabian petroleum to induce oil shocks against the West like Sheikh Yamani himself had done just a couple years before the OPEC hostage-taking.

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