Authorities in Bolivia have arrested a group of kidnappers that hacked computers to gain information on victims and demanded exorbitant ransoms, an unusual case in a country not known for kidnapping or cyber crime.
The special investigative unit (CEIP) of the Bolivian police arrested four people in La Paz accused of kidnapping at least 17 people and demanding individual ransoms of up to $200,000 from victim's families, reported La Razon. The arrests follow three months of police investigation into the group.
Police commander General Walter Villarpando said the group would plan the kidnappings for at least two weeks, investigating each victim and their assets with the help of a computer hacker. Following the kidnapping, they would call the victim's family, identify themselves as working for Colombian hitmen, and demand payment.
The ring's leader, an evangelical pastor, said during questioning the group had been robbing the rich to give to the poor, despite only the kidnappers' families receiving money.
Authorities said that while no victims were injured, most did not report the crime for fear of reprisals.
InSight Crime Analysis
While kidnapping is a common crime in other Latin American nations -- especially Venezuela and Mexico -- it is not a major problem in Bolivia, although other cases have been reported in the past year.
This case is also notable for two other reasons: first, the amount of money demanded, which was extremely high -- in comparison, one Mexican group dismantled in 2011 charged under $4,000; second, for the use of technology to aid the crime. Using social media or hacking software to gain information on kidnap victims is a common facet of cyber crime and its use in this case indicates the operation was somewhat sophisticated.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Kidnapping
The Andean nation, like others in Latin America, is ill-equipped to deal with cyber crime, having no specific legal framework to criminalize and punish it, and even shutting down the security forces Computer Crimes Division in 2008, according to Global Information Society Watch, an NGO that monitors cyber security around the world.