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The threat posed by kidnappers is still acute with other 20,000 reported kidnappings worldwide each year, according to Willis in its latest Resilience publication.

But even this could be under estimating the true scale of the problem. The official figure for Mexico alone is 2,000 kidnappings in 2011, for example, but the Council for Law and Human Rights says that the true figure is more like 17,000 – almost nine times the official estimate.

 

“The threat is growing, the risk is fluid and it can very easily move from one country to another”, Richard Scurrell, Executive Director at Willis’ specialist kidnap-and-ransom division, Special Contingency Risks (SCR), commented in Resilience .

Expanding on the typical profile of a kidnap risk hotspot, Paul Mills, Executive Director of Security Services at SCR, said: “A lot of the countries where kidnaps occur regularly have a fantastically wealthy element of the population at the top, a very small middle class and a very large poor population.”

Amid the economic crisis, Mills fears kidnap and ransom risk could return to countries such as Greece and Italy. Mexico, for example, saw a surge in kidnapping and extortion following the economic crash of 1994. “We have already seen incidents of high-net-worth individuals being attacked by more radical elements.”

Other observations:

“The increasing overseas reach of countries like China and India means the demand for Kidnap-and-Ransom insurance is expanding”, according to Scurrell.

“There have been various cases where individuals have apparently been kidnapped, only to be found later hiding”, according to Mills.