Mexican kidnap threat continues to grow

Three Spanish engineers working for a Spanish automotive parts company in Puebla, Mexico were on their way to work in November 2017. As they left their secure residential compound, they were intercepted by two vehicles containing several armed men who forced the Spanish workers out of their own vehicle. While one of the Spaniards managed to escape and alert authorities, the other two were forced into the attackers’ vehicles at gunpoint and driven away. They had been kidnapped.

Well planned kidnap
In a year set to be the worst ever for kidnappings in Mexico, this kidnapping scenario was unusual in that there were three targets traveling together. Usually there is security in travelling in a large group. In this case however, the kidnappers arrived with enough people and weapons to manage three potential victims and control the situation.

According to press reports, the kidnappers allegedly demanded a ransom of 30,000,000 Mexican pesos (about US$1,650,000) from the Spanish workers’ employer, sending them a clear message: pay or the victims would be killed. The company began working with Mexican authorities who suspected a former employee of the Spanish firm of being involved in the kidnapping. 

Common kidnap traits
This is where the kidnap began to conform to the more common type of kidnap seen in Mexico. It was usual in that someone close to the victims was suspected of being involved and providing information to the kidnappers. Other common factors include the timing of the kidnap early in the morning (at 6am), near the victims’ home, and as the targets were driving to work. The kidnappers were also organised and willing to carry out their threats if the ransom was not paid.

Within a few days, Mexican authorities were able to locate and rescue the two hostages who were being held in deplorable conditions in a walk-in refrigerated room on a farm outside the city. The room was dark and cold, with no furniture or sanitary facilities and one of the victims had been beaten by the kidnappers. 

Authorities said the kidnappers were well-organised and experienced. All indications were that they had the means and intention to carry out their threats if the ransom was not paid. The police made several arrests and the victims are now recovering.

Review security protocols
The Mexican authorities estimate that the criminal underworld in the country has splintered into more than 400 active groups; each engaging in a variety of criminal activities like extortion, assassination, and kidnapping which is driving up the overall incidence of kidnapping and criminal behaviour. It is critical that multinationals working in Mexico review their current security protocols and ensure they have an updated crisis response plan in place.

Find out how Hiscox Special Risks can help protect your business from kidnap, hijack, extortion and other associated threats.