Special Report

Biggest Ransoms Ever Paid

Source: Alexander Koerner / Getty Images

Kidnapping of Enrique Metz
> Year of kidnapping: 1975
> Victim’s occupation: Mercedes Benz executive
> Ransom amount: $5 million ($26.1 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Montoneros (Argentine terrorist group)

Left-wing Argentine terrorists the Montoneros used coercive tactics to force companies to accept large wage demands from radical unionists. In 1975, the group grabbed Enrique Metz, an executive with Mercedes-Benz, and held him for two months until the ransom was paid. The Montoneros also forced Mercedes-Benz to reinstate more than 100 workers who had been fired.

Source: Courtesy of CK Hutchison Holdings Limited

Kidnapping of Victor Li
> Year of kidnapping: 1996
> Victim’s occupation: Son of the Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing
> Ransom amount: $134 million ($240 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: “Big Spender” Cheung Tze-keung

Victor Li, the son of Hong Kong business mogul Li Ka Shing, was kidnapped by notorious Hong Kong mobster Cheung Tze-keung, nicknamed “Big Spender” for his profligate spending and gambling. Victor Li was released reportedly after one night. After the ransom was paid, the nervy gangster phoned Li Ka Shing seeking advice on how to invest the money.

Source: Courtesy of Sun Hung Kai Properties

Kidnapping of Walter Kwok
> Year of kidnapping: 1997
> Victim’s occupation: Son of one of China’s richest businessmen
> Ransom amount: $77 million ($134.8 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: “Big Spender” Cheung Tze-keung

Cheung Tze-keung made a specialty of kidnapping the sons of tycoons. After he’d taken Victor Li the previous year, Cheung abducted Hong Kong developer Walter Kwok – son of Kwok Tak-seng of Sun Hung Kai Properties – in September 1997 and held him in a hut for a week, beating him when he refused to contact his family before the ransom was paid. Cheung was eventually caught, tried, and executed.

Kidnapping of the crew of the Maran Centaurus
> Year of kidnapping: 2009
> Victim’s occupation: Greek-owned oil tanker
> Ransom amount: $7 million ($9.2 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Somali pirates

The 28-member crew of the Greek-owned oil tanker Maran Centaurus was released in January of 2010 after ransom was paid. The U.S.-bound vessel carrying 2 million barrels of crude was grabbed by Somali pirates about 762 miles off the Somali coast in November of 2009.

Source: U.S. Navy / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Kidnapping of the crew of the Samho Dream
> Year of kidnapping: 2010
> Victim’s occupation: A South Korean oil tanker
> Ransom amount: $9.5 million ($11.6 million in today’s money)
> Kidnapper: Somali pirates

Somali pirates were paid a record ransom for the release of the 24-person crew of the South Korean oil supertanker Samho Dream. The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was carrying a reported $170 million worth of crude from Iraq to the United States when it was hijacked in early April in the Indian Ocean.

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