Sahil family raised £110,000 to pay ransom

French, Spanish and British police collaborated to track alleged kidnappers
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The Independent Online

The parents of Sahil Saeed were given just 72 hours to raise the £110,000 to secure the safe release of their five-year-old son, it emerged last night as the boy and his father finally arrived back home in Oldham.

Kidnappers who snatched the youngster while on holiday in Pakistan ordered the boy's father to travel to France with the money in a rucksack.

A complex Interpol operation involving specialist units from Spain, France and Britain tracked Raja Naqash Saeed as he flew from Oldham to Paris where he delivered the money in person. Calls outlining the plan were traced by the Spanish authorities to the tourist town of Salou on the Costa Dorada.

The Spanish Interior Ministry revealed that an Urdu-speaking member of the gang initially ordered Mr Saeed, 28, to deposit the cash somewhere in Manchester but when he arrived at the agreed location another call insisted he continue his journey to the French capital.

He was told to bring the money in a rucksack to a McDonald's restaurant on the busy Place de la République where it is alleged police translators Mohamed Zaeb Salem, 29, from Pakistan, and his Romanian girlfriend snatched the bag and fled. The couple, who were said to have good knowledge of police methods because of experience working with the Spanish security forces, drove 500 miles south to the border trailed by undercover French investigators. There they were picked up by Spanish officers who pursued them to an apartment in Constantí near Tarragona. Police surrounded the building waiting anxiously for news of Sahil's safe release in Pakistan.

They watched as the couple, now joined by another Pakistani man, unloaded the money contained in packages and a large suitcase. Once it was confirmed the youngster had been found safe in a field 20 miles from where he was seized in Jhelum in Punjab, armed officers moved in and raided the apartment recovering £105,000 and €3,565. All three were arrested. The money plus the cost of a new computer the couple had bought and travel expenses added up to the total amount demanded in the ransom, investigators said. Police also recovered the mobile phones used to call the boy's father in France.

A statement issued by the Spanish Interior Ministry statement said: "Absolutely nothing was known about the child's whereabouts, and for that reason the people who collected the ransom, a man and a woman, were placed on permanent watch."

It was also reported yesterday that Salem and the woman had previously been arrested in connection with a fatal stabbing in Tortosa, near Tarragona, in 2008. It is believed the third man shared a flat with them in Constanti. Yesterday the couple and a 33-year-old man appeared in court in Tarragona in handcuffs with hoods over their heads to shield them from photographers.

A father and son, who police said were related to the alleged kidnappers, were arrested in the Paris suburb of Bobigny on Tuesday but later released when it was found they knew nothing of the kidnap plot. A further three men remain in custody in Pakistan.

Mr Saeed was following the instructions of the kidnappers when he returned to Manchester against the wishes of the Pakistan authorities. It emerged yesterday that officers from Greater Manchester Police helped "facilitate" the payment of the ransom though a spokeswoman declined to comment on suggestions that Mr Saeed was followed by undercover officers when he travelled to France.

Nearly half of the cash was raised from the sale of jewellery and other heirlooms belonging to the family of Sahil's mother, Akila Naqqash. It is unknown where the rest came from. The British Government has insisted throughout that it did not contribute to the ransom and repeated its policy that kidnapper's demands should not be met.

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