A criminal gang in South Africa who kidnapped a teenage boy on Sunday are demanding a ransom in bitcoin crytocurrency of nearly $120,000, police said.
Katlego Marite, 13, was dragged into a car while playing with two friends near his home in Witbank, a town in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, on Sunday afternoon, police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said.
“They demanded that the family should deposit a sum of 15 bitcoins, not in rands,” he told news channel eNCA.
Clueless parents decry demand for bitcoins
“(The parents) don’t even know what these bitcoins are. They are not dealing in those things. They are in tatters as we speak.”
Although police in South Africa have reported a recent rise in kidnappings, the ransom demand in cryptocurrency appears to be a first.
In December, kidnappers in Ukraine received a ransom worth more than $1 million in bitcoins for releasing their victim, an employee of a British cryptocurrency exchange.
Bitcoin is a digital or cryptocurrency that enables payment in a decentralized peer-to-peer network not governed by any central authority or middleman. Digital currencies rely on cryptography and blockchain technology to validate and secure transactions.
As demand for the cryptocurrency surged, the value of bitcoin rose with the value of a bitcoin going as high as $19,783 in December 2017.
Several authorities including central banks, governments and religious institutions have warned against the use of bitcoin citing the lack of a central authority and probable use by money launderers, terrorists and other criminal elements as reasons for their objection to the financial technology trend.