ABUJA Jan 4 An arrested gang leader told
Nigerian authorities that South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy
Industries paid a 30 million naira ($192,100) ransom
to release six workers kidnapped in Nigeria's oil region last
month, police said on Friday.
Gunmen kidnapped four South Korean and two Nigerian men at a
Hyundai Heavy building on Dec. 17, in southern oil-producing
Bayelsa state. They were released five days later.
Hyundai Heavy Industries was not immediately available for
Kidnapping is rife in Africa's top energy producer, making
millions of dollars a year for criminal gangs, especially in the
heart of the oil industry, in the swampy Niger Delta.
Bayelsa state police commissioner Kingsley Omire confirmed
the ransom figure paid and said they had caught most of the
suspected kidnappers. But the leader of the criminal gang had
escaped after being arrested, he said.
"He told us that they received a ransom of 30 million naira
and his own share was 3 million naira, which he used in buying
electronic devices, DVD players etc", Omire said by telephone.
"Following his confession that he has some arms in his
house, he was followed to his house, but his men opened fire on
our men in the waterways ... during the gun battle he escaped."
It is unusual for authorities to admit a ransom has been
paid because they say it encourages abductions.
The 83-year-old mother of Finance Minister Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala was abducted on Dec. 9 in Delta state but was
freed five days later, a high profile target that showed few are
safe from the clutches of kidnappers in Nigeria.
Three Italians and five Indians kidnapped during two
separate pirate attacks last month off Nigeria are still
($1 = 156.2000 Nigerian naira)
(Reporting by Isaac Abrak; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Jon