A gang that kidnapped a South African teenager from a playground at the weekend have demanded a ransom in bitcoin worth about $123,000, police have said.
The 13-year-old boy was taken in the town of Witbank in the eastern province of Mpumalanga while he was playing with two friends near his home. Witnesses said a Toyota Corolla pulled up nearby and the teenager was dragged in and driven away.
“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,” the police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said on Tuesday. Local media said the ransom note was left at the scene.
Kidnappers messaged the parent. “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,” the note reportedly read.
The first deadline for payment of part of the ransom passed on Monday night. In the note, the kidnappers threatened to kill the boy if their demands were not met. A police official said boy’s parents were “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?” local media quoted the official as saying. The boy’s mother made an emotional appeal on Tuesday, pleading with the kidnappers to “bring back [her] son”.
Police in South Africa has reported a recent rise in kidnappings, although it is usually wealthy businesspeople who are targeted. The latest case appears to be the first ransom demand made for a cryptocurrency in the country.