Jeff Pearce
corporate risk
K&R: Who Gets Kidnapped? | Canadian Insurance

K&R: Who Gets Kidnapped?

It's not the engineer from Iowa; it's the local national

Insurers and responder companies do differ mildly on some key points, like who gets taken and how. Mike Ackerman, CEO of the Ackerman Group, says the choice of victim can depend on the culture of the region they’re working in. “We’ve worked cases of children as young as three or four.” While his company might follow the same procedures and processes, there’s just more pressure on us when it’s a child.”

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Dwight Kartchner of Control Risks says that when it comes to who gets kidnapped, “the old model used to be it was the patriarch. The reality is, no. It can be almost anybody.” An entire company, he says can represent X amount of money, so “who’s the easiest target out of all of you? That person will be the victim. It’s not that complicated.” Kidnappers will target those with the easiest, most regular routines. But more often than not, those with the regular routines are the locals.

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While Canadian and U.S. firms might expect a target to be “the engineer from Dubuque, Iowa,” Kartchner argues that “the reality is almost always it’s a local national working for you. Almost 90 percent of the time.” The “easier hit” is to grab the person who won’t result

in a foreign government getting involved and who already speaks the language.

But Christopher Arehart of Chubb makes a distinction between the western and eastern hemispheres. In the West, he says, “it’s the local Mexican, the local Colombian, those individuals that live in those regions have been at the highest risk,” not the elite like the CEO or one of the board of directors. But in the eastern hemisphere, “all bets are off.” Whether you’re wealthy or not, the perception of wealth alone is enough to make you a target, whoever you are. In a country like Nigeria or Pakistan, the highest risk would be for “an expatriate living in one of these countries, establishing their procedures, establishing that they go to the grocery store every day at 2:00, they go running on the beach—very predictable and easy to target.”

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Arehart recalls a case from the 1990s of an American helicopter pilot who ferried people back and forth from an oil rig in a part of Latin America. The man was taken by a gang of teenagers, who fully expected he should be able to pay— but not because he worked for a big oil company. No, “it was because you guys play people to pay basketball. Michael Jordan makes millions for a game… So if we pay people for a sport, we certainly must be able to pay if you were running a sophisticated thing like a helicopter.”

Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the November 2014 edition of Corporate Risk Canada magazine