Special Report

Biggest Ransoms Ever Paid

Kidnapping of Virginia Piper
> Year of kidnapping: 1972
> Victim’s occupation: Wife of retired investment banker Harry C. Piper
> Ransom amount: $1 million ($6.7 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Unknown

Two armed men wearing ski masks broke into the Orono, Minnesota, home of socialite Virginia Piper, the wife of investment banker Harry Piper, and kidnapped her in July of 1972. Harry Piper personally delivered the $1 million ransom money. Two days later, Virginia Piper was found in a state park, handcuffed and chained to a tree. Sixteen days before the expiration of the statute of limitations on kidnapping, two men were arrested and then convicted but the verdict was overturned on appeal. They were acquitted in a second trial. No one else was ever charged with the crime and the $1 million was never recovered.

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Kidnapping of Anthony Da Cruz
> Year of kidnapping: 1973
> Victim’s occupation: Kodak executive
> Ransom amount: $1.5 million ($9.5 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Argentine guerillas

In April of 1973, Kodak executive Anthony R. da Cruz, a Portuguese-born United States citizen, was kidnapped on his way to work just outside Buenos Aires by the People’s Revolutionary Army. He was not harmed by his captors and was released several days later after Kodak paid the ransom.

Kidnapping of Francis Brimicombe
> Year of kidnapping: 1973
> Victim’s occupation: British businessman
> Ransom amount: $1.7 million ($10.8 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: ERP revolutionary group

Argentine terrorists grabbed Francis Brimicombe, president of Argentina’s largest cigarette company, a subsidiary of the British-American Tobacco Co., as he was returning home from playing golf in Buenos Aires in April of 1973. He was released unharmed several days later after a ransom estimated at between $1.5 and $1.8 million was paid.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Moviepix via Getty Images

Kidnapping of John Paul Getty III
> Year of kidnapping: 1973
> Victim’s occupation: Grandson of the oil baron John Paul Getty
> Ransom amount: $2.2 million ($13.9 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Italian mafia

John Paul Getty III, grandson of oil tycoon John Paul Getty, was kidnapped by Italian mobsters in Rome in July 1973 and held for a $17 million ransom. His grandfather balked at paying, but when his grandson’s severed ear was sent to a newspaper, the older Getty relented and negotiated a payment of $2.2 million – the maximum amount he could deduct on his taxes. John Paul Getty III was found alive at a gas station in December of 1973. Nine of his kidnappers were caught and two were convicted. The Getty story was made into a movie, “All the Money in the World,” in 2017.

Source: Geraldine Sarratud / Getty Images

Kidnapping of Charles Lockwood
> Year of kidnapping: 1973 and 1975
> Victim’s occupation: Steel company director
> Ransom amount: $2 million and $10 million ($12.7 million and $63.3 million, respectively, in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: ERP revolutionary group

British executive Charles Lockwood had the unlucky distinction of being kidnapped twice in Argentina. The first time in 1973 he was held for 54 days and released after his captors received $1 million in ransom. In July of 1975, he was grabbed on his way to work by the same leftist guerrillas. They shot and wounded two of his bodyguards and demanded $10 million. Lockwood was rescued by policemen who killed four guerrillas in a shootout.

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