Cryptocurrencies have become popular topics of discussion these days, and more and more states are legalizing it. However, with wider acceptance, criminal activities related to these digital assets are also on the rise. Recently two people have been arrested by police in Mpumalanga, South Africa as it was established that they had connections with the kidnapping of a 13-year-old boy in Witbank whose family was then told to pay the equivalent of $120,000 in bitcoin (approximately 32.89 BTC at press time).
According to reports published by South Africa’s Times, after the May 2018 kidnapping, the South African Police Service (SAPS) had established a special task team to deal with such unprecedented threat of kidnappers attempting to facilitate their criminal activity using cryptocurrency’s relative anonymity.
SAPS Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said:
These cases were the first of their kind in Mpumalanga and a task team comprising of different units within the South African Police Service was immediately established by police management to investigate this matter.
As per the special task force team instituted to investigate this case, the first suspect was caught in Germiston, Gauteng in November whereas the second suspect was caught on December 30 in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal. It was then established during the course of questioning that both suspects – aged 30 and 31 – had the plan to ask for ransom via bitcoin payment in a botched kidnapping attempt. On Tuesday, they both appeared in court where the bail has been set at 1,000 rands each.
Similar cases have been often been reported by us, where cryptocurrencies have aided and abetted in some kind of criminal activity. Mostly bitcoin and sometimes other crypto assets have been used to facilitate low-level offline crime this remains something of a black spot with law enforcement, who tend to focus on its role in organised crime and cybercriminal organizations.