South Africa: Gang Kidnaps 13 Year Old Boy, Demands Ransom of 15 Bitcoins

The kidnappers of a 13-year-old boy in South Africa have demanded a ransom of 15 bitcoins (BTC) - around $120,000 - for his release, The Guardian reported Tuesday, May 22.

Local police stated that on Sunday, May 20, three gang members pulled up in a car near to where the teenager, Kathlego Marite, was playing with two friends close to his home in the town of Witbank. Witnesses said the men dragged him into the vehicle, leaving their ransom note at the scene. The “non-negotiable” note reportedly threatens to kill the boy if the demands are not met, with the first deadline for payment passing on Monday.

Local media quoted Brigadier Leonard Hlathi as saying that the family is “going through 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 Guardian reports that the case is the first ransom demand for cryptocurrency in the country’s history.

Late last year, Pavel Lerner, the managing director of crypto exchange EXMO was released after a $1 mln ransom in Bitcoin was paid to a gang who had abducted him while he was leaving his office in Kiev, Ukraine. That same month, the perpetrator of an attempted package bombing in Germany sent a note via DHL demanding a €10 mln ransom to be paid in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has also allegedly been an increasingly popular form of ransom demanded by cybercriminals, with widespread fears of the high-profile WannaCry ransomware causing companies globally to “stockpile” the cryptocurrency preemptively last year.