On a fine sunny day this past Sunday a 12 year old was taken off the pavement, into a silver car that then drove off with some speed, and was not seen again until today.
Miriam Marite, the boy’s mother, learned on the same day that something was very wrong. A note had been sent through the family home letterbox, pay 15 bitcoins ($112,000), or Katlego Marite will be “hanged‚ then decapitated” and “a copy of the video will be delivered to you.”
“What is bitcoins?” – the father is known to have asked while residing within a wealthy area locals describe as there is “money there.”
So begun the story of the first known kidnapping to have something to do with cryptocurrency. The country is South Africa, yet it could be anywhere in the globe.
With the car racing, a chase was afoot. A family friend rushed to help after hearing of the events. A neighbor’s CCTV had it all captured on camera, revealing the moment the boy was kidnapped into a silver Toyota Corolla.
With the car a lead, the hunt was on. A family friend becoming a friend indeed, according to the mother:
“He said to us‚ ‘Let me drive quickly to the location to go to different taverns and where they drink‚’ and as he was there‚ [at a place] they call Lunchbox‚ he called us and said he has seen the car.”
Terror we should imagine on the face of the kidnappers, who at this point must have been oblivious of the cat coming for the mouse.
Three men were taken into custody. The car now (this Tuesday) in the possession of the police, but Brigadier Leonard Hlathi says they have not been arrested or charged, they are only being questioned at this stage.
Today, the same Brigadier says “I can confirm that he has been found. Police are with him as we speak.”
So ends a story we should have never had to write. Was the ransom paid or were they taken off-guard thanks to the perhaps lucky spotting of the car? Is this the first of many to come, or does this story show that while cryptos might be a new thing, old fashioned police works fine still?
Time alone will say, but the challenge of managing the physical aspects of these digital things is now becoming somewhat apparent.
Yet as this story shows, and some others have, the digital can be very physical when it comes to the most heinous of crimes, with none so far succeeding as far as we are aware.
While online hackers do often sometimes very easily get away with it, crypto-related crimes in physical settings have so far only led to prison, or a great risk of it without any reward for the new nature of this space makes it easy to fool such criminals in some instances.
Still, these very new developments are now a challenge and the crypto space does need to ponder potential responses, while regulators and the rest need to understand that they can better protect the public by working with this space, not by agitating the very many good man and women that certainly wish nothing whatever to do with these criminals.