May 23, 2018 / 7:47 AM / 6 months ago

South Africa kidnappers demand ransom in bitcoin to free teenager

FILE PHOTO: Representation of the Bitcoin virtual currency standing on the PC motherboard is seen in this illustration picture, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A criminal gang in South Africa who kidnapped a teenage boy on Sunday are demanding a ransom in bitcoin cryptocurrency of nearly $120,000, police said.

Katlego Marite, 13, was dragged into a car while playing with two friends near his home in Witbank, a town in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, on Sunday afternoon, police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said.

“They demanded that the family should deposit a sum of 15 bitcoins, not in rands,” he told news channel eNCA. “(The parents) don’t even know what these bitcoins are. They are not dealing in those things. They are in tatters as we speak.”

Although police in South Africa have reported a recent rise in kidnappings, the ransom demand in cryptocurrency appears to be a first.

In December, kidnappers in Ukraine received a ransom worth more than $1 million in bitcoins for releasing their victim - an employee of a British cryptocurrency exchange.

Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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