State Park Ranger Rescues Child in Parental Abduction


February 7 , 2014

Source: cslea.com

“Sovereign Citizen” Father Found With Drugs & Bogus $100 Bills

When California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) Member and California State Parks Ranger Dan Perata checked on a broken down vehicle January 10, 2014, it was standard operating procedure.  What happened next, makes him a hero in the eyes of many parents.

CA_-_State_Park_Ranger_Logo

 

“There’s no question in my mind, Ranger Perata’s attentiveness and actions saved this child from harm,” said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona.  “After inspecting one vehicle parked under the interstate, he moved on to a second one and discovered a man and a child sleeping inside.  He didn’t know it immediately, but the child was a victim in a parental abduction.”

Ranger Perata discovered the vehicle and its occupants on Quail Canyon Road under Interstate 5 south of the Gorman area.  Instead of disturbing the sleeping man and child, Ranger Perata ran the vehicle’s license plate.  Information attached to the license plate revealed the vehicle was involved in the  parental abduction of a child.  Ranger Perata called for back-up and subsequently arrested the man.  He then discovered the suspect in possession of 10 grams of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and counterfeit $50 and $100 bills.  In addition to kidnapping charges, the suspect was arrested on drug and counterfeit money charges and resisting a peace officer.   The child appeared to be in good health.

The suspect was identified  as a “sovereign citizen,” someone who believes that federal, state and local governments operate illegally.   The FBI identifies sovereign citizens as a growing domestic threat to law enforcement.   Some of the actions of sovereign citizens include making false license plates, driver’s licenses and counterfeit currency.  The more extreme “sovereign citizens” become involved in more severe crimes and violent behavior, impersonating and or threatening law enforcement officers.   It is a movement fueled by the internet and seminars that spread this ideology.

“This arrest demonstrates how quickly an ordinary call or investigation can turn into something more dangerous,” said Barcelona.  “I’m am relieved that it ended as peacefully as it did, none of the rangers was hurt and the child is safe from harm.  Ranger Dan Perata did an exceptional job.”

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Indiana mom could be jailed in Cyprus as she fights for kids


August 2 , 2013

Source: internationalparentalabduction.org

Indiana mom could be jailed in Cyprus as she fights for kids

Marla Theocharides is locked in an ugly international custody dispute

In a desperate attempt to stay close to her two children, Marla Theocharides packed her belongings and moved in April from Northern Indiana to Cyprus, where her ex-husband has kept their kids for more than two years despite US orders from Indiana giving the mother full custody.

Marla Theocharides

On a number of occasions, her attempts to spend time with Katerina, 7, and Marcus, 4, have been thwarted by their father, who has denied visitation and ignored an order from the US court in South Bend, Indiana that grants custody of the children to their mother.

It’s yet another international custody dispute, similar to that of another Hoosier mom who traveled to Greece earlier this year in order to get her son back. That case ended happily for Alissa Zagaris, whose son is now with her in Noblesville.

But for Marla Theocharides, 33, things are not going well. In fact, she is about to go to jail.

A Cyprus court issued an arrest warrant for the Mishawaka native Friday, alleging failure to pay child support — despite the fact she cannot get a job because the financially struggling island country has yet to issue her a work permit.

“I expect to be arrested this week,” Theocharides said in an exclusive interview with The Indianapolis Star. “I am not ­legally allowed to work in ­Cyprus until they issue me a pink slip. I have applied for it but have not received it yet.”

Theocharides is supposed to pay her ex-husband 500 euros a month under a local court’s shared-custody decree that is supposed to guarantee her visitation rights. According to Theo­charides, her ex-husband, Charis, is a business consultant for NCR (National Cash Register) in Nicosia and makes 4,200 euros a month, information she says she got from court documents.

Attempts to reach Charis have been unsuccessful.

Theocharides, on the other hand, is struggling. “I am living on my credit card for food and gas,” she said. “I cannot pay the money back; I have no income.”

For that, she expects to go to jail, though probably not for long.

“I am told they will put me in jail until I can pay,” she said. “When they realize that I cannot pay, they will make payment arrange­ments and release me.”

Theocharides moved to Cyprus because child welfare officials told Cypriot courts that her children need to have a close relationship with their mother. Both children were born in America when the couple were married. She quit her job at a South Bend dentist’s office and moved to ­Cyprus. Since that time, she’s seen her kids only a handful of times.

“They were all very brief (visits), of course,” she said. “My daughter is very brainwashed, so she will not speak to me or have anything to do with me. My son is fine. He plays and laughs with me. He lets me hold him and doesn’t want me to leave when it is time to go.”

Back in Indiana, her parents and sister are deeply concerned about events in Cyprus.

cyeu

“My mom has been taking it pretty hard,” said Raquel Muessig, 32, Granger, Theocharides’ younger sister. “It’s very frustrating because all the doctors there recommended she come, but then nobody helps when she tries to visit them.

“I feel like her ex-husband is just wanting ­revenge and wants her to suffer. She is causing stress in his life, and he does not handle stress well.”

Theocharides notified the U.S. State Department. An official there told The Star that the State Department is aware of “this private legal matter” before the Cypriot courts and is “providing all appropriate assistance and will continue to monitor the case closely.”

Theocharides first reported that her children were taken from her by their father on Jan. 10, 2011.

The couple met in 2001 while in college in Arizona and married in 2004; their kids were born in a South Bend hospital. Theocharides’ husband took the oath as a U.S. citizen in 2009.

In October 2009, the family moved to Cyprus, a move that Theocharides thought would be temporary but her husband considered permanent. In July 2010, she returned to the U.S. with the kids, and in the face of what she said was an increasingly violent husband, she filed for divorce.

Her husband complained to authorities in Cyprus, prompting the U.S. State Department to send Theocharides a letter requesting that she return the children. That was followed by kidnapping charges against her.

In January 2011, on the advice of the State ­Department, Theocharides reluctantly allowed her husband to take the kids back to Cyprus. Since then, St. Joseph Circuit Court in South Bend has tried to intervene, retaining its original jurisdiction in the divorce proceedings.

In September 2011, ­despite the absence of her husband and his attorney, the court finalized the ­divorce and awarded custody to Theocharides.

Since that time, she has been back and forth to ­Cyprus for visitation ­attempts that often proved fruitless and on at least one occasion re­sulted in her arrest and a short stay in jail.

Late last year, the welfare department and a child psychologist in ­Cyprus reported to the courts that the children were not doing well — they live with their grandmother and are cared for by unrelated nanny — and they recommended that Theocharides go to ­Cyprus for an extended stay to re-establish her ­relationship with them.

Alissa Zagaris, who endured a similar struggle with an ex-husband in Greece, said this case is more difficult than hers.

“Marla’s case is so much more complicated than mine, but the basic facts are the same,” Zagaris said Monday. “Hoosier kids stuck in a foreign land against all laws and treaties.

“I hate the fact Marla has put her own safety and freedom at risk by moving to Cyprus, but I understand why she has. Marla is my hero and 1,000 times braver than I.”

In Cyprus, Marla Theocharides says she is becoming very concerned about her own safety.

“I have been assaulted, jailed, followed and har­assed,” she said. “Anything can happen at any moment over here. My ex and his family are always planning something. I am even scared to go on the visits with my kids because I don’t want to get arrested in front of the children.”

But in a recent Facebook post, she showed ­resolve to stick it out until the end.

“He threatened me and told me that he has people after me and I will never last in Cyprus. WATCH ME. I will die for my kids. I am not afraid of him anymore.”

 

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Kidnap threat grows as European economic woes continue


January 12, 2013

Source: commercialriskeurope

The 20,000 kidnappings reported worldwide annually represents a growing risk for business with the economic woes in Europe likely to see incidents rise in countries such as Greece and Italy, Willis warned this week.

kidnapping_02

In its Resilience publication, the broker said the actual number of kidnaps is likely to be far higher than the official figures suggest as many go unreported.

In hotspot Mexico there were over 2,000 kidnaps reported last year, but according to the Council for Law and Human Rights, an NGO that works with families of victims, the true figure is around 18,000.

Earlier this year global security company Red24 noted that official data showed a 9% increase in kidnapping incidents between 2010 and 2011.

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“The threat is growing, the risk is fluid and it can very easily move from one country to another,” said Richard Scurrell, Executive Director at Willis’ specialist kidnap-and-ransom division, Special Contingency Risks (SCR).

A number of factors are driving this increase, primarily inequalities in developing nations. “A lot of the countries where kidnaps occur regularly have a fantastically wealthy element of the population at the top, a very small middle class and a very large poor population,” explained Paul Mills, Executive Director of Security Services at SCR.

As the economic crisis in many parts of the world drags on, so more countries may match this profile, he continued.

Mexico, for example, saw a surge in kidnapping and extortion following the economic crash of 1994, and now Mr Mills fears the risk could return to European countries such as Greece or Italy, where it has not been a serious issue for decades.

“We have already seen incidents of high-net-worth individuals being attacked by more radical elements,” he said.

The growth in income inequality and increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of large multinational businesses is therefore a real issue for risk managers at big firms.

As Willis pointed out: “The latter’s workers make obvious targets for abduction; the former means a growing pool of potential perpetrators.” Kidnapping comes in various guises. Planned events, where perpetrators have watched their target and are well-organised, are distinct from opportunistic crimes, where the kidnapping is an afterthought to a robbery or carjacking.

The latter tend to result in lower ransom demands and shorter detentions, but also tend to be more unpredictable, meaning more danger for the victim.

Latin America continues to pioneer new methods, such as virtual kidnapping. In these instances kidnappers monitoring victims to learn their routines and perpetrators use this knowledge to extort money from families or employers by claiming to have kidnapped the victim when he or she is simply unreachable.

Whilst the majority of large companies in the developed world already have some form of kidnap and ransom coverage, said Mr Mills, many choose not to draw attention to such policies.

kidnapped

Coverage is often not disclosed to employees to stop them becoming targets. Employees can also commit fraud against companies.

“There have been various cases where individuals have apparently been kidnapped, only to be found later hiding out,” pointed out Mr Mills.

Willis argues that the kidnap and ransom coverage is ‘wide ranging’.

Policies usually cover not just the ransom (reimbursed, rather than paid directly by the insurer), but various other expenses involved such as travel costs, medical bills, rewards for informants and time away from work for those released-important considerations, given the length of time kidnapping cases can take to resolve, said the broker.

In addition to kidnapping, insurance also typically covers against extortion, wrongful detention and hijacking.

Added endorsements might include cover for loss of earnings, security costs in the case of threats, product losses as a result of extortion, and emergency repatriation.

Kidnap and ransom policies can also cover the costs of crisis-response consultants in the event of an incident. This is their real value, said Willis.

“The real value of these policies is in the resources that are brought to bear in the event of a kidnap,” said Mr Scurrell. “The overwhelming majority of multinational organisations can afford to pay a ransom, but they’re not likely to have the expertise and experience in-house to deal with a kidnapping.”

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Parental Child Abduction – Lesson 1


ABP World Group Child Recovery Services 


Imagine…

You are in the kitchen cooking dinner while your children are playing in your front yard. When you go outside to call them in, they are gone.

Imagine…

You drop off your child at school before work. When you arrive to pick her up in the afternoon you are told that someone else has already taken her.

Imagine…

You wait for your former spouse to return your son following a schedule weekend visit. When your child isn’t returned, you go to the other parent’s home only to discover that the apartment has been vacated.
The physiological response in each of these situations is the same. Your heart begins to pound and your adrenaline starts to surge through your veins as the realization dawns that your children are gone. In an instant your brain considers possible explanations, but they each defy logic. Your brain already knows what your heart is desperately trying to deny. Your children have been kidnapped.
There are few horrors that can rival the experience of having one’s child kidnapped. Movies and television shows sensationalize child abduction. The nightly news further distorts correct understanding of child abduction by only reporting on the most dramatic of cases, for example, the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. There exists, however, a less-glamorous form of child abduction which is perpetrated by the child’s own parent.
Parental Kidnappings
Each year there are more than 350,000 child abductions in America. The vast majority of these kidnappings are perpetrated by one of the child’s parents. The official term for this type of crime is “parental child abduction”, but it is also referred to as a “child kidnapping” or “child snatching”. Regardless of the terminology, the fact that the child is taken by the other parent does not diminish or negate the raw emotional trauma inflicted upon the other parent.

Parental kidnapping is the unlawful abduction of a child by one parent which deprives the other parent of their lawful custody of the child.  In divorce situations, the abductor may be the custodial or the non-custodial parent. This means that even if the abductor is the custodial parent or primary caregiver, if the abduction deprives the other parent of his or her court ordered visitation time then the custodial parent is guilty of parental child abduction.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention conducted an intensive and thorough research study on child abduction in America. The project is called the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART). The section that focused specifically on children abducted by family members is called NISMART-2. This article extensively references the NISMART-2. The original study may be found at: http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org

Defining Parental Child Abduction

“For the purposes of NISMART-2, family abduction was defined as the taking or keeping of a child by a family member in violation of a custody order, a decree, or other legitimate custodial rights, where the taking or keeping involved some element of concealment, flight, or intent to deprive a lawful custodian indefinitely of custodial privileges.”
The NISMART-2 elaborates on the definition above by further defining the following terms:
  • Taking: Child was taken by a family member in violation of a custody order or decree or other legitimate custodial right.
  • Keeping: Child was not returned or given over by a family member in violation of a custody order or decree or other legitimate custodial right.
  • Concealment: Family member attempted to conceal the taking or whereabouts of the child with the intent to prevent return, contact or visitation.
  • Flight: Family member transported or had the intent to transport the child from the State for the purpose of making recovery more difficult.
  • Intent to deprive indefinitely: Family member indicated intent to prevent contact with the child on an indefinite basis or to affect custodial privileges indefinitely.

Conceptualizing the Problem

Of the 203,900 parental child abduction cases studied, 57% were labeled as “caretaker missing”, meaning that the victimized parent did not know where the child was for at least 1 hour, became alarmed and searched for the missing child. However, the NISMART-2 reveals:
“It is possible for a child to have been unlawfully removed from custody by a family member, but for that child’s whereabouts to be fully known. Thus, a child can be abducted but not necessarily missing.”
In fact, the study found that 43% of the children kidnapped were not thought of as “missing” by the victimized parent because the child’s whereabouts were known to the victim parent.
“Although the family abductions described in this study typically had certain disturbing elements such as attempts to prevent contact or alter custodial arrangements permanently, they did not generally involve the most serious sorts of features associated with the types of family abductions likely to be reported in the news. Actual concealment of the child occurred in a minority of episodes. Use of force, threats to harm the child and flight from the State were uncommon. In contrast to the image created by the word ‘abduction,’ most of the children abducted by a family member were already in the lawful custody of the perpetrator when the episode started. In addition, nearly half of the family abducted children were returned in 1 week or less.”
Even if the child is not considered missing, the abduction is still considered child abuse because of the damage that it inflicts upon the child. The NISMART-1 found that, “family abduction can result in psychological harm to the child” and the NISMART-2 states that “family abductions constitute an important peril in the lives of children it is important to remember that the potential harm to family abducted children exists whether or not they are classified as missing”.

Characteristics of Parental Abductions

Location and Season. 73% of parental abductions took place in the child’s own home or yard, or in the home or yard of a relative or friend. Children were removed from schools or day care centers in only 7% of the cases. In 63% of the cases, the children were already with the abductor in lawful circumstances immediately prior to the abduction.

Police Contact. In 40% of all cases, the aggrieved parent did not contact the police to report the abduction. The study found a number of reasons for this, but the majority of responses indicated that the parent did not believe that the police would intervene in the matter because the child’s whereabouts were known, they were in the care of a legal guardian, and it did not appear that the child was being harmed. The highest percentage of abductions took place during the summer.

Ages. 45% of abductors were in their 30’s. 44% of abducted children were younger than age 6.
Indicators of serious episodes. “The use of threats, physical force, or weapons was relatively uncommon in family abductions.” 17% were moved out of State with the intent to make recovery more difficult. 44% were concealed, at least temporarily, from the victimized parent-+. 76% included attempts to prevent contact. 82% included intent to permanently affect the custodial privileges of the aggrieved parent.

Conclusion

Parental child abduction is the unlawful kidnapping of a child by one parent which deprives the other parent of his or her lawful custodial rights. This kind of child snatching not only victimizes the other parent, but it is also a serious form of child abuse.
When the abducting parent chooses to go underground or flees the state or country, recovery of the child becomes exceptionally difficult – and sometimes impossible. Because of this, if you suspect that your child is at risk of abduction you must act now. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of abduction, as well as actions designed to make the recovery of your child far more likely.

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Celebrities – Stalking and Kidnapping


Sourse: Valerie Ferrari

We hear so much about the paparazzi sticking cameras in celebrities’ faces and stalking them for days just for a photo or two and how sick celebrities are of being hounded in this obnoxious fashion.

Paparazzi harassment, however, pales in comparison to kidnapping threats. Celebrities must ever be on their guard against threats against them and their families. They must be sure to have extraordinary security measures in place at all times to protect themselves and their loved ones.

In 2005, a painter employed on David Letterman’s ranch in Montana hatched a plan to kidnap Letterman’s baby son and his nanny. Kelly A. Frank, 43, was caught before he could execute the despicable plan because he confided the plot to a man who in turn told the police. Frank said he had a key to the house and knew where the baby slept. He intended to kidnap the nanny so she could take care of the child until he collected a $5 million dollar ransom.

Frank was sentenced to 10 years in jail in a plea bargain. David Letterman was stalked for years prior to this by a deranged fan, Margaret Ray, who believed they were married. She continually broke into his home in Connecticut house. Margaret Ray was sent to prison, where she served 10 months and, after she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she served 14 months in a mental institution. She later committed suicide at age 46.

Madonna was forced to cancel a concert in 2004 when she received corresponding threatening her children, Lourdes and Rocco. The correspondence contained details that badly frightened Madonna since she readily discerned that her home and staff were being watched.

In 2001, Australian actor Russell Crowe, of Gladiator fame, was informed by the FBI that they were taking a kidnap threat against him seriously and insisted upon accompanying him to the Academy Awards to protect him. Crowe later revealed that the threats came from al-Qaeda.

That’s just a mere sampling of plots that were discovered before any harm could be done. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In 1985, Julio Iglesias’ father, Julio Iglesias, Sr., was kidnapped by Basque terrorists and held captive for 2 weeks, repeatedly threatened with death. Spanish police were able to rescue him unharmed one day before the ransom money was to be paid. The incident was far from over for the Iglesias family. The singer’s father was deeply traumatized and suffered for a long time after the rescue.

In 1973, John Paul Getty III, the grandson of billionaire John Paul Getty, was kidnapped by the Italian Red Brigades in Rome and held in the Calabrian Mountains. His father did not have enough money to pay the $17 million ransom demand, and while his rich grandfather initially refused to help. John Paul Getty did not wanting to give in to the kidnapper’s demands and reportedly said: “I have 14 other grandchildren, and if I pay one penny now, then I will have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.” Several weeks later, when one of his grandson’s ears arrived in an Italian newspaper’s mail, he agreed to help. John Paul Getty III’s life continued to deteriorate after his return. He later took a mixture of prescription drugs that put him a 6-week coma and left him paralyzed and blind.

Celebrities pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to take every imaginable security precaution, including 24-hour bodyguards, to deal with the ever-present spectre of kidnapping and stalking. They cannot know what goes on in the minds of the deranged and criminal in every instance, and, tragically, as the John Lennon murder case illustrates, sometimes the attacker can appear in a non-threatening situation that then turns deadly.

Published by ABP World Group Ltd. Security Solutions
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International Parental Child Abduction – The Effects


Source: Reunite.org

This two-year research project considered the long and short term effects of international parental child abduction and included, we believe for the first time in an European study, an investigation of the effects on the abducted child through child interviews conducted by senior CAFCASS officers who worked with the Research Unit on this project.

Many parents had previously spoken informally of the effects of abduction and this research exercise allowed a formal investigation into the physical and emotional effects and whether these were affected by other factors such as the length of the abduction and the specific circumstances in which the abduction took place. The Research Report details the far-reaching and long-lasting effects of abduction from the perspective of both the left-behind parent and the abducting parent.

One of the objectives of the research was to capture the experiences of the children and young people themselves.  Hearing from them directly, and independently of their parents, we hoped to gain a better understanding of the effects on children of international parental abduction and also identify any lessons that could be learned by parents and professionals.  In the words of Singer J. who so kindly wrote the foreword to the Research Report, “The interviews with children are particularly striking and poignant.  Their accounts again demonstrate the long-lasting effect of abduction on the children and young persons involved, as they grow and develop.”

Following the publication of the research findings, this statement was issued by Professor William Duncan, Deputy Secretary General, Hague Conference on Private International Law:

“Congratulations to reunite, and especially to Marilyn, for this excellent publication. Careful empirical studies of this kind are a vital basis for policy making at the national and international levels. It is a happy coincidence that the study is published a few months before the next meeting of the Special Commission to review the practical operation of the 1980 Hague Convention, for which it provides valuable background material.”

Click here to download the full report 

Parental child abduction and its impact

When a parent kidnaps a child long-term problems begin
Published on November 13, 2010 by Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D. in Buddy System

I have been studying the impact of parental child abduction for the last 20 years and have published extensively on the topic.  Recent events and articles have placed it again in the news. Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped by a non-family member for nine months when she 14-years-old testifed this week in court during the trial against her abductor, Brian Mitchell.  Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped when she was 11 and held for 18 years. During that time she gave birth to two children.  While these high profile non-family kidnappings capture the headlines, much more common are family abductions. Today’s New York Times carries a front page article about using the I.R.S. to track down abductors who file tax returns.  Department of Justice statistics report that approximately 200,000 family abductions occur each year and that 6% of these last for longer than six months.

Most recently, and working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), I completed interviews with 8 people (now all over 21-years-old) who were parentally kidnapped when they were children.  The focus of the interviews (the report is available on the NCMEC website) was to learn what would help families reunify with each other after a kidnapping. For today’s blog I will focus on the impact on children.  Some of this information appears in my co-authored book (with Rebecca Hegar), When Parents Kidnap.  Imagine a child being taken by a parent with whom the child does not feel particularly close, moved away from friends and other family members, and living in changing residences.  Imagine the state of mind of the abductor who is the primary caretaker.  Add these two together and the stage is set for a difficult time for the child.  While the child is on the run, the left-behind parent is often frantic and expending all his or her time involved in the search.  The left-behind parent’s well-being, relationships, and work life are put at risk and, upon recovery of the child (not all children are recovered) the parent struggles to get things back to normal when such a hopeful vision may not be possible.

According to David Finkelhor et al.’s telephone survey (NISMART), 16% of abducted children experience emotional harm, 4% are physically abused, and 1% are sexually abused.  Other research, including our own, found reactions to abducton include: nightmares, fears of doors and windows, bedwetting (depending on age), fear of authority and strangers,anger at abductor and left-behind parent, depression, anxiety, and school and peer problems.

Problems for many adults persist into their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s (the oldest person I interviewed was 53).  Today’s New York Times‘ article talks about cooperation between the IRS and searching parents to help find missing children.  The sooner cooperation can begin the better it will be for children and their families. The impact of these long-term abductions is significant enough that new steps toward prevention are clearly needed.

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Tiger Kidnap – The Threat To The Financial Sector


Tiger kidnappers are usually able to coerce their victims into unlocking doors, entering the right codes in vaults and even warning them of special secret security measures.

‘Someone will be killed’

Although no relative has ever been murdered in such a situation, the thought in the back of the victim’s mind is enough to coerce them into co-operating with the gang.

“The increase in the rate of tiger kidnappings within recent years is believed to be attributable to a hardening of physical security standards while overlooking the important human factor.”

Mr Lewry  at Control Risks says the media under-reports tiger kidnappings, usually because the police and security companies are not keen to highlight the problem.

He says it is wrong to think only managers of banks and cash depots are vulnerable, pointing to tiger kidnappings involving jewellers, supermarket managers and even McDonald’s staff.

Mr Lewry says victims are usually terrified and traumatised, and rarely return to the workplace afterwards.

He adds it is very hard to combat tiger kidnappings.

“One way is to have a system whereby more than one person needs to be present for a door or a vault to open, but even then if someone’s family has been kidnapped, they will do everything they can to persuade their colleague to come in and help them.”

——–

Intelligence available to Crime and Security, the force’s intelligence department, indicates that gangs from Finglas and Coolock were trained in the use of military firearms and surveillance while attending a bodyguarding course in eastern Europe. They enrolled on the private military courses using the internet.

“A handful of suspects have attended bodyguarding and weapons courses taught by former commandos in the eastern bloc. These courses are usually offered to people who want to become bodyguards. They teach everything from how to use guns to counter-surveillance. Some courses train students in how to deal with armed confrontations,” said one security source.

“In this case, they are effectively training for kidnappings and armed robberies, and the day when they will encounter an armed response unit.”

Detectives have long suspected that certain criminals had received military or special-forces training. Kidnap victims taken in recent tiger raids have told investigating gardai that raiders operated in a military-style fashion and didn’t seem to panic when confronted with problems.

One witness described her captors as operating in such cohesion that she likened them to a Swat team. Other kidnap victims have made statements saying their captors worked as a close unit and were notably polite to them.

Another feature in several of the raids was the absence of CCTV footage of the suspects, leading detectives to conclude the culprits had been trained in counter-surveillance.

Gang members have also shown themselves to be more than adept at departing from crime scenes without leaving DNA traces.

The suspicion that Irish criminals have received firearms training poses a serious problem for specialist garda teams like the elite emergency response unit, which is tasked with combating armed gangs. It has also forced gardai to re-evaluate the threat posed by some gangs in the Dublin region.

Gardai believe the criminals enrolled on courses by booking over the internet. Private firearms and bodyguarding courses are advertised widely on the internet and in security publications.

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Course attendance fees range from €4,000 to €25,000 depending on the tuition provided. Former commandos retired from the Croatian and Serbian armies act as course tutors. There is no indication that the course operators are aware of the ultimate intentions of their clients.

Modules for most courses include firearms instruction, counter-surveillance and siege situations. Students are also permitted to use a variety of weapons including Uzi submachine guns and semi-automatic revolvers while being drilled in firearms and shooting techniques.

There have been about ten tiger kidnapping in the past ten months, netting a few gangs in excess of €2.5m. Among the high-profile raids was the theft of €800,000 from the Permanent TSB in Coolock, Dublin.

A gang held the manager’s family hostage overnight before forcing her to hand over the cash.

Michael McDowell, the justice minister, has warned banks against co-operating with kidnappers. McDowell has told financial institutions that if they pay a ransom to gangs involved in tiger robbery kidnappings, they are endangering people’s lives.

Source: BBC and The Sunday Times

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