A man and his son, both British, travel to Marbella. They go to a cocaine transaction. Days go by, his family becomes restless and denounces in their country. When the Spanish Police intervened, they entered a flat and searched it. There is no sign of any. You just suspect. It has been more than a year and they still do not appear. The agents are convinced that they were kidnapped and killed. It is the classic perched on top of that crime. Many are committed on the Costa del Sol and are not reported.
«There is a black figure impossible to calculate. They occur between drug traffickers and between rival organized crime groups. When they come to us it is because it has already been complicated to the extreme.
There are hardly any complaints and we find out under the covers that these illegal arrests have taken place, ”explains Raúl Fernández, head of the Kidnapping and Extortion Group of the National Police. ‘Vuelcos’ (robberies) of drugs and assaults on ‘nurseries’; hashish and cocaine, with Arabs, French and British in the lead, as well as Spanish. Those who commit them know what they are risking. If they pay for the ransom, they are released. If not, they kill them». The law of the hardest.
“Kidnappings have been going down for years, although we know that this black figure around drug trafficking exists,” reiterates Inspector Fernández. Official statistics reflect this drop, although not as much as it happens in reality. The reason is that cases are included that for investigators do not fall into the full criminal category: parental abductions or victims of human trafficking, for example.
In 2016, 94 kidnappings were reported throughout Spain, the highest number in the last five years. They dropped to 69 in 2017; 81 the following year, 89 in 2019 and 79 last year, including a pandemic. Until last September, the Interior data collected 73.
Between 4 and 25 years in prison
It is one of the most serious crimes with penalties ranging from four to 25 years in prison depending on the circumstances. The harshest punishment is foreseen if the victim is minor or disabled, or if the purpose of the kidnapping is to undermine the sexual freedom of the person. Illegal arrests and kidnappings continue to occur – much less – but the bulk of police work is now directed at virtual extortion, triggered by the pandemic. The erotic and sexual pages, some false, are one of the claims in which they fall most unsuspecting.
In March, the Police arrested 57 people in the Operation Mikhail, the largest network of sexual extortionists detected with hundreds of victims who were threatened and forced to pay from 100 to 80,000 euros, the amount released by a businessman who was placed on the ropes. From Madrid, Malaga and Valencia, in a coordinated manner, they inserted false advertisements on sexual contact pages. Those who accessed these pages through WhatsApp received disturbing messages after a few days like this: «This is the head of the loquovip services house and the person in charge of the SICARIO [sic] and the girls agency. He then refers to the Italian mafia, eight men who know where he lives and demand payments from him. «If he does not answer me or blocks me, I will order him to be brought here to our department to make him pay the wrong way or get him up immediately and bring his head back here ».
The traced threats are repeated. The victims believe that paying ends the problem, but it is the opposite. More and more money is being demanded of them. Only when they are cornered, do they denounce and manage to free themselves. The Kidnapping and Extortion Section has spent two long years behind this Mafia 3.0 and has managed to decapitate it, although those responsible are already at liberty again. They are of African and Dominican origin, accompanied by a cast of Spaniards.
They had collectors, ‘mules’, who put their bank accounts at the disposal of the chiefs to collect the bites; they also received payments through Bizum, Moneygram or Paypal. The roles were distributed with pencils. In July they arrested eleven other members – they acted as satellite groups. It was the Girasol operation, led by Facundo BSH, ‘el Facu’, a twenty-year-old of Uruguayan origin who had risen in the group. «I earned between 30 and 50,000 euros a week with extortion. They closed a disco one night and spent it all. Brand clothes, luxury life ”, says Chief Inspector Javier Romero, head of the Kidnapping Section. He had hidden in Peal de Becerro, a town in Jaén, and there the GEO surprised him in the middle of the night. It was displayed on social media with protected weapons and animals, stored marijuana and had a mini-army of employees working during office hours in a virtual and criminal ‘call center’. They took pictures of hit men from the Internet and put them on their profiles. Between terror and shame they were plucking their victims. A father went to the police with his 18-year-old son to report. He had paid more than 1,000 euros. “And he didn’t even have sex,” said the father between embarrassment and misunderstanding.
More than 200 victims
With the telephones that were tapped, the agents have discovered more than 200 victims. On average they took up to 4,000 euros, a sangria. Anonymity releases the language of the people, who tell where they live, what they do, their place of work … succulent data for criminals who lick themselves on the other side of the screen. «We have gone from the physical to the virtual. Economic kidnappings have almost disappeared. It is very difficult to pay in cash. In that, the Sepblac controls work perfectly ”, clarify the two police officers.
They assure that in Spain there are no organized groups that are dedicated to this crime, if one that comes expressly to commit a kidnapping, do the work and leave the country. According to Europol, kidnappings have dropped across Europe, including in Colombia who had record numbers for the narco.
The virtual migrations of crimes, also of this, suppose a headache for the Security Forces. They are already considering what will happen if the kidnappers or extortionists demand payment of bailouts with cryptocurrencies, with the difficulty of following that trail. It has not been given, but the British put it on the table at the congress held in Toledo at the end of November of the International Police Community with Kidnapping and Extortion (CIPSE) attended by 27 countries and which is led by Colombia.
«The purpose is to anticipate what is going to happen. Extortions by post are over, for example, they are completely residual “, explains the chief inspector of the UDEV. One of the world’s concerns is the encryption of communications by criminals, with specialized platforms to provide greater privacy. Some work as a walkie connection, they leave no trace, impossible to capture a conversation, as if it had never existed. The technology, they concluded, is the best ally of crime.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism