A group of men who kidnapped a South African teenager last weekend demanded a ransom in bitcoin worth about $123,000, according to police reports.
The 13-year-old boy was abducted in the town of Witbank in the eastern province of Mpumalanga while playing with friends near his home. According to witnesses, a Toyota Corolla pulled up nearby and the teen was dragged into the car and the kidnappers drove off afterwards.
“We are investigating a case of kidnapping that happened on Sunday in Witbank. There was a demand that was made that the parents should deposit cash in bitcoins,” police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said.
A ransom note was left at the crime scene according to local media.
The note reportedly read:
“This is a kidnapping … We demand ransom of 15 bitcoins to be paid into the below bitcoin wallet address to secure your child’s safe release – non-negotiable.”
According to reports, the first deadline for partial payment of the ransom passed on Monday night. The kidnappers specified in the note that they would kill the boy if their demands were not met. A police official revealed that the boy’s parents were in trauma.
“They don’t even know what this bitcoin is. They’re devastated and you can see they’re worried and asking themselves: ‘Where’s our son?” the official said. On Tuesday, the boy’s mother made an emotional appeal to the kidnappers to “bring back [her] son.”
South African Police have reported a recent rise in kidnappings in the region, although the targets are usually wealthy businessmen. The latest case involving a ransom demand in bitcoin appears to be a first in the country.