Special Report

Biggest Ransoms Ever Paid

Source: Fox Photos / Hulton Royals Collection via Getty Images

Kidnapping of King Richard the Lionheart
> Year of kidnapping: 1190
> Victim’s occupation: King of England
> Ransom amount: 150,000 marks ($3.3 billion in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Leopold V, Duke of Austria

King Richard the Lionheart, part monarch and part myth, left England to fight in the Third Crusade to try to expel Saladin and the Muslims from the Holy Land. He failed to do so, and on his return to Europe, kings and assorted leaders conspired against him and blocked routes to his homeland. Richard was shipwrecked along the Adriatic Sea and eventually became a prisoner of Leopold V, Duke of Austria. It cost one-fourth of every man’s annual pay in England to release him. Richard returned to England in March 1194.

Source: ilbusca / Getty Images

Kidnapping of Atahualpa
> Year of kidnapping: 1532
> Victim’s occupation: Last emperor of the Incas
> Ransom amount: A hall full of gold and silver (estimated $1.5 billion in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Francisco Pizarro (Spanish conquistador)

Atahualpa was the last Inca emperor. He had ascended the throne after a bloody succession battle with his brother, Waskar. The internecine conflict left the Inca empire weakened, so when the conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived with Spanish troops, his superior weaponry and tactics defeated a much larger Incan force. Atahualpa was captured and Pizarro demanded ransom of Inca gold and silver. After tribute was paid, Atahualpa was executed.

Source: Courtesy of The Federal Bureau of Investigation

Kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease Jr.
> Year of kidnapping: 1953
> Victim’s occupation: Son of one of Kansas City’s richest men
> Ransom amount: $600,000 ($6.3 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Brown Heady

The kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease Jr., the son of a wealthy Kansas City car dealer, ended tragically, becoming one of the most infamous abductions in U.S. history. On Sept. 28, 1953, Bonnie Brown Heady went to the 6-year-old boy’s school pretending to be his aunt and told the school’s administrators the boy’s mother was sick and she had come to pick him up. Heady and fellow accomplice Carl Austin Hall shot the boy to death shortly after the abduction. They demanded $600,000 and sent six ransom notes over the next week. A tip from a cab driver in St. Louis led the FBI to the kidnappers, who were both caught and eventually executed.

Source: Central Press / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Kidnapping of Ronald Grove
> Year of kidnapping: 1972
> Victim’s occupation: Top employee at Vestey meat packing company
> Ransom amount: $1 million ($6.7 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Argentine guerrillas

British meat-packing company executive Ronald Grove was grabbed by Argentine guerrillas in December 1972 on his way to a golf outing in Buenos Aires. He was freed 10 days later after the company paid the ransom.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Kidnapping of Vincenzo Russo
> Year of kidnapping: 1972
> Victim’s occupation: ITT executive
> Ransom amount: $1 million ($6.7 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Montoneros (Argentine terrorist group)

The Argentine terrorist group Montoneros abducted Vincenzo Russo, an executive at a subsidiary of Italian telecom ITT, and held him for ransom for $1 million in 1972.

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