Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.

This article first appeared on Medium and is reproduced with AJ’s kind permission.

AJ Vickers, Security and Training Consultant at Prime Media Safety

Aj is a former British Soldier and Security Advisor with 14 years combined experience. He served on operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq & Afghanistan. Aj’s specialist areas are Media Safety, Close Protection and Training. His work so far has seen him gain experience operating across the UK and Europe, also the more complex areas of the Middle East, Caribbean, Central Asia and South East Asia.

Tiger Kidnapping. Who, What, When, Where & Why?

As you are no doubt aware, there are many types of kidnap. In this piece, I will give a brief insight into tiger kidnapping.

What are tiger kidnappings?

Tiger kidnapping is a form hostage taking where the victim and their family, usually an employee from a business with access to cash or high value goods, is held against their will. There isn’t a ransom demanded, rather the victim is coerced into committing a crime on behalf of the perpetrators whilst their family is used as collateral. The tactics derive from when the IRA used tiger kidnappings to force their victims into delivering explosive devices on their behalf. Once demands have been met, the victims are then released.

When do they happen?

Unlike other forms of traditional or express kidnappings that are committed out in the open, a tiger kidnapping will highly likely take place at a location where the victim and their family (or collateral) will all be in one place, such as their home, often in the evening. The term ‘tiger kidnap’ coined its name from how a tiger stalks its prey for a long period of time, the intended target will be under extensive surveillance prior to the abduction. It takes meticulous planning and due to the nature of a further crime being committed, various locations and people will be under surveillance at any one time.

Where do they happen?

Tiger kidnappings take place in various locations, increasingly common in the Republic and Northern Ireland. There have been numerous reports of tiger kidnappings over the years, the most famous one being the 26.5 million raid in 2004 on the Northern Bank in Belfast. In 2009 Charlie Flanagan a member of the Irish Parliament, remarked that “tiger kidnappings are taking place in Ireland, at a rate of almost one per week.” They are also very common in Brazil, Control Risks reported in 2017 that levels of tiger kidnap are higher than anywhere else in the world. There have also been reports of cases in India, Belgium and Mexico.

Why do they happen?

There could be various motivating factors behind tiger kidnappings, such as terrorism as mentioned earlier, however monetary gain remains at the top of the list. As physical security has improved over the years on banks and other financial institutions, organised criminals have had to evolve their tactics. Tiger kidnapping can potentially yield massive results at a lower risk of being caught, compared a traditional armed robbery. The direct threat to the family of the victim usually ensures that the demands are met, by the time the victim has contacted the police the perpetrators have escaped. Also, the risk for follow up threats and fear of reprisals, may force the victim into not co-operating fully with the police.

Who is at risk?

Businesses in the finance sector and banks, with employees whom have access to cash are key targets. However, good business security practices have evolved over the years, such as limiting employees direct access to cash or less cash being kept on the premises. This has forced organised criminals to go after employees from softer targets, such as businesses or organisations with access to high value goods such as diamonds or smaller sums of cash at locations such as post offices or foreign equivalents.


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