A special guest post by Global Security Consultant and Political Risk Expert, Paul Crespo. This is the third post in the series.
You are an executive on a business trip in a foreign country being driven to a meeting when suddenly your car is slammed by a large truck and armed men with AK-47s yank you from your car, blindfold you and throw you into a van.
You have just been kidnapped. Now what?
Fortunately, most kidnappings today are for ransom, and victims are eventually released. If it is an “express” kidnapping, your ordeal could be over in 48 hours after a couple of maximum withdrawals from your ATM. Otherwise your captivity could last several months.
Any abduction can turn deadly however, and the victim’s survival will depend on decisions he or she makes while in captivity, but more importantly how his or her company back home responds.
What You Should Do
Ideally your company has prepared for this risk and has provided you some security training and you have at least been briefed on what to expect during your captivity.
You should already have agreed-upon personal (and secret) “proof of life” questions and answers to confirm that you have been kidnaped and are alive and well. You should also have been briefed that kidnappings for ransom can take weeks or months to resolve, and given some pointers on how to handle yourself during your capture and captivity.
These should include:
- Not to antagonize your captors with obstinate behavior.
- Understand that kidnappings for ransom are seen as a business transaction, and you are a valuable commodity to your captors. You will be kept alive.
- Have faith that your company is doing everything possible to ensure your safe return.
- Be prepared for a long and arduous process.
- Remember that most kidnaps for ransoms are concluded successfully with no loss of life.
Designating Crisis Management Team
To help ensure a successful resolution, your company should also have previously designated and trained a company Crisis Management Team (CMT) to immediately deal with your kidnapping.
This team should consist of the company CEO, the security chief (or director of international operations) and the general counsel. The team might also include a finance officer (to raise the ransom) and a human resources or personnel officer to care for the hostage’s family. If company size permits, a public relations or communications person should be included to handle media.
If your company has obtained kidnap insurance for its key personnel they should have a retained a professional security company with kidnap and ransom (K&R) expertise. If not it should hire one immediately. Professional consultants and K&R negotiators will advise the CMT and handle negotiating your release.
First Hours Critical
The first hours following a kidnapping are critical to successful resolution. Early decisions should be made by key corporate decision makers in consultation with expert security advisors, not by a field manager, or local representatives in the country where the kidnapping occurred.
Depending on the country, your company should also politely decline any help from local authorities. Too often local police are involved in the kidnappings or will get involved to extort your company or family, or steal the ransom payment. Offers to “rescue” the hostage should be evaluated very critically and generally declined as too risky. Your company and family should also maintain discretion and secrecy about the kidnapping and negotiations.
Normally an intermediary should act as the conduit between the management team and the kidnappers. This ‘communicator’ should be chosen quickly, be trusted, have a calm disposition and be fluent in the local language. This person will constantly briefed by professional kidnap negotiators on now to respond to the kidnappers demands and should have no decision-making power.
Proof of Life
Once the kidnappers make initial contact, and ‘proof of life’ has been determined, the negotiations begin. The kidnappers will use ugly threats, bluster and long periods of not communicating to wear your company, family and loved ones down. But all involved must have patience. Accepting the kidnappers demands too quickly often results in the kidnappers simply demanding more. This process could take weeks or months.
Once a ransom amount is agreed upon, instructions for delivery will be given. Ransom delivery is a very delicate and dangerous phase of the process and should be carefully prepared and managed by K&R professionals.
Kidnappings are harrowing experiences for all involved, especially for the hostage and their families, but if the kidnap negotiations are handled professionally and competently, eventually an agreement will be reached, a ransom paid and you will be released safely.
Be sure to read the other posts in this series:
Paul Crespo is a global security and political risk expert. A Senior Consultant with Trident Crisis Management Group, he has appeared on Fox News, CNN and other major TV news venues. He has varied experience in corporate security, kidnap and ransom negotiations, intelligence and diplomacy as well as military operations in hotspots from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf. A former officer in the US Marine Corps he was also assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as a military attaché and posted to several US embassies overseas. Paul graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and has a Masters degree in War Studies from Kings College, University of London, and a Masters degree in International Relations from Cambridge University in the UK. Paul Crespo can be reached at email@example.com
If not, your company should hire one immediately.
If not, your company should hire one immediately.