print   email   Share

Steps To Take To Prevent And Survive A Kidnapping

A Vietnamese citizen helped kidnap another Vietnamese citizen in Berlin, Germany last year. The victim was an oil executive wanted on criminal charges in Vietnam for corruption. While the executive was returned to Vietnam where he is now imprisoned for life, his kidnapper stayed in Europe. Recently, German prosecutors have charged him with kidnapping.

The matter angered Berlin and soured relations with Hanoi. German officials accused Vietnamese spies of abducting the oil executive and his female companion from a public street in broad daylight. Federal prosecutors said the 47-year-old man had been formally charged with taking part in secret service activity and assisting in the deprivation of personal freedom. The executive and the woman were pushed into a truck and taken to the Vietnamese embassy in Berlin on July 23. It is unclear, however, how the executive was later taken to Vietnam, but his companion was flown to Hanoi hours after she was seized.

The suspect was arrested in the Czech Republic in August and handed to German authorities and remains in detention. "Germany charges Vietnamese man in ex-oil executive kidnapping" (May, 2018).


Although the Berlin kidnapping victim was targeted by state actors as a way of capturing an alleged criminal, according to estimates by U.S. insurers, nearly 40,000 kidnap-and-ransom cases involving business travelers are reported every year.

If your organization is publicly-traded, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure rules make corporate compensation a matter of public record. Kidnappers are most often, but not always, motivated by financial gain, making the kidnapping of highly compensated corporate executives an ever-present possibility.

In addition, while executives may be more at risk in the United States, in many other countries, all employees, at all levels, face danger, especially if the country is impoverished. Whether being held hostage on a ship off the coast of Somalia or roughnecks being held for ransom in oil-rich, but unstable countries in Central America, South America, and West Africa, most kidnappings are non-terroristic “express kidnappings” done for profit.

Hiring executive protection services is a good, albeit expensive, way to add a layer of security beyond the usually safety tips such as carrying a decoy wallet, no ostentatious displays of wealth, paying attention to your surroundings, and packing a “go” bag for emergencies - a bag packed with essential items, kept ready for use in the event of an emergency like an evacuation of one's home or, in this case, for a quick safe escape, if need be, when traveling in another country.

Consider some other options such as kidnapping camp. Many executive protection companies offer training courses for executives or key corporate personnel. Experts say what happens in the first few minutes of a kidnapping attempt can make the difference between a good outcome (for you) and tragedy. Kidnappings rarely succeed if the victim runs away or reacts in an unexpected way. Nevertheless, most people would not know what to do. Training yourself and your employees how to handle themselves in these situations should be a priority.

Because most kidnappings require pre-planning, forming a counter-surveillance program at your corporate offices or private residence could be helpful. Watch for those who may be watching you. Look for people who might be walking back and forth frequently in front of a location, taking video or photographs, or counting footsteps to determine the measurements of a given location. This training could include existing support staff and use of CCTV cams.

Use GPS. Although your cell phone may be the first thing taken from you in a kidnapping, the technology exists to program a cell phone to send out a distress signal while you still have it. For instance, press the sleep/wake button on your iPhone five times rapidly to send an SOS alert. Smaller, personal GPS transmitters can be used as a portable panic button and locator.

If the worse happens and you or your employees are abducted, experts recommend companies train employees about how to act as hostages. Tips include touching everything in sight to leave lots of fingerprints and talking to the kidnappers so they see you as a human, not an object.

Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: