South African Police Apprehend Suspects behind Recent Bitcoin Kidnapping in Mpumalanga

It is quite unfortunate that the decentralized economy brings with it a rather safe medium for criminals to perpetrate their vicious activities unscathed. Fortunately, police and other security agencies across the globe are rising up to the task, and thus making it difficult for hoodlums who inflict their venom through cryptocurrencies to get out clean.

This was again confirmed in recent kidnapping cases in South Africa. The first incident, which occurred on May 20, 2018, involved the kidnapping of a 12-year old boy who was walking back home with a friend from a nearby spaza shop (small informal convenience shop). The kids were intercepted on their way home and one of them was forced into a silver-colored Toyota Corolla, leaving the other stunned as they sped off.

Fortunately, this incident was captured by a neighbor’s CCTV camera. The kidnapping case was immediately reported to the police station and a special task force consisting of different units within the South African Police Service (SAPS) was set up to investigate the incident as that would be the first time such incident had occurred in Mpumalanga. Getting back home, the parents of the 12-year old boy were greeted with a note from the kidnappers demanding R1.5M to be paid in Bitcoin as a ransom for the child. Although the boy was reunited with his family a few days later, there was no indication whether the ransom was paid or not.

As with criminals, the suspects could not wait to launch another attack and this time it was an attempted kidnapping of a 13-year old girl in Aerorand, Middleburg. The incident, which occurred on August 21, 2018, was unsuccessful as the 13-year old girl screamed clamorously for help. Pedestrians heard her cry and ran to her rescue, causing the kidnappers to flee abandoning their vehicle and belongings in the process. Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, who publicly discussed the story, confirmed that the suspects intended to do the same as with the Witbank case.

The suspects, who were confirmed being responsible for the Witbank kidnapping and the attempted kidnapping at Aerorand Middleburg, were nabbed by Mpumalanga police at two different locations. The first suspect, a middle age man, was apprehended in November 2018 at Germiston in Gauteng. While his partner, (also a middle age man) was arrested on December 30, 2018, at Ladysmith in Kwazulu-Natal. They were arraigned in court on January 15, 2019, where they were granted R1,000 bail each.