Sun, 25 Aug 2019

Two men arrested in connection with kidnapping plots in which the kidnappers demanded cryptocurrency as payment have been released on R1 000 bail.

Police said Sithabiso Mchunu and Ndumiso Sithole appeared in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

In a statement, spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said Mchunu, 30, was arrested on December 30, 2018, in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, while Sithole was apprehended in Germiston, Gauteng, in November.

In the first kidnapping, 13-year-old Katlego Marite was taken by a group of men while playing with friends outside his family's home in Emalahleni in May. The kidnappers left a ransom note demanding 15 Bitcoin, around R1.6m, for his freedom.

On the day Katlego was taken one Bitcoin was trading at R108 595.93.

The boy was later released unharmed and reunited with his family.

In August, a 13-year-old girl escaped the clutches of kidnappers who tried to take her hostage. Hlathi said bystanders who heard her scream helped her break free from the men, who then fled the scene.

He said it later transpired that the kidnappers were following the same modus operandi as in the previous case, and were due to demand Bitcoin in exchange for the girl's release.

"These cases were the first of their kind in Mpumalanga and a task team comprising different units within the SAPS was immediately established by police management to investigate this matter," said Hlathi.

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