Wealthy Mexicans turn to tracking devices as kidnap rate soars

When kidnappers seized the former Mexican presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos last year, one of the first things they did was slice a tiny tracking device from his arm.

There is a growing demand among Mexico's wealthy for technology they believe will keep them safe in the kidnapping centre of the world. One company supplying the satellite-enabled implants, Xega, based near Mexico City, claims to have seen orders rise by 40 per cent in the past 24 months.

But the device failed to prevent Mr Fernandez de Cevallos' brutal abduction, and his ordeal lasted another seven months before he was eventually released (apparently after his family paid a hefty ransom), leading security experts to warn that the trackers may do more harm than good.

Armand Gadoury, managing director of the Virginia-based security intelligence firm Clayton Consultants, which has seen its Mexico business double since the start of 2010, told The Independent that the implants only work with a repeater, about the size of a mobile phone, outside the victim's body. "The truth is that that would be one of the first things to be removed from the victim in the event of a kidnap," he said. "The technology is just not there right now."

Josh Miller, head of the British company Control Risks in Mexico, added that the chips gave a false sense of security, while also confirming to kidnappers that their victim was wealthy enough to be worth hanging on to, and possibly even upping ransom demands.

Both experts insisted that there was no substitute in financially motivated kidnappings for maintaining calm and informed communications with the kidnappers, whose demands were usually rational, unlike the politically inspired hostage-taking prevalent in the Middle East.

Kidnapping statistics are notoriously unreliable, with an estimated 80 per cent of all cases never officially reported. However, Mexico is thought to have overtaken Colombia in 2005 as the world's kidnapping capital in absolute numbers. According to Mr Miller, Mexico still topped the rankings in 2010, followed closely by Nigeria.

The reticence on the part of victims' families to report kidnappings is particularly easy to understand in Mexico, where corrupt police are frequently involved in organised crime.

Mexico's kidnapping numbers are swelled by so-called "express kidnaps", in which taxi passengers are spontaneously targeted, with several armed accomplices of the driver piling into the taxi and the victim being held for several hours or days and forced to take money from cash machines. Their families may also be contacted for a small ransom, usually less than £2,000.

But the rich and powerful in Mexico, such as Mr Fernandez de Cevallos, also fall prey to highly sophisticated gangs, often linked with cocaine cartels, which may have had them under surveillance for months. Often, bodyguards and other staff are implicated.

Kidnapping is now so common in Mexico that it has even spawned a new crime, "virtual kidnapping", in which a gang attempts to extort a ransom by conning family members into thinking that a loved one, who is in fact unharmed and free, has been kidnapped.

Xega was unavailable for comment.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before