5 January 2013

YENAGOA (AFP) – The alleged ringleader of a Nigerian kidnap gang said that Hyundai Heavy Industries paid nearly $200,000 in ransom to free one Nigerian and four South Korean workers, police said Friday.

The police commissioner for Bayelsa state, where the kidnapping occurred, said the alleged ringleader told officers during questioning following his arrest that 30 million naira in ransom was paid and he received three million.

“The leader of the kidnap gang said on the whole that the company paid 30 million naira ($191,000, 147,000 euros),” Commissioner Kingsley Omire told AFP.

“He said he received only three million naira and that other groups involved in the kidnap saga shared part of the money.”

The Nigerian offices of the South Korean company could not be reached on Friday.

The five workers were abducted by armed men on December 17 while working at a construction site in the southern state of Bayelsa. Another Nigerian was also abducted, but released hours later, Omire said.

The remaining five victims were released unharmed on December 21.

According to Omire, four suspects were in custody over the kidnapping. He added that Nigerian authorities were not aware of the ransom payment or negotiations and said companies were discouraged from making such payments.

Ransom kidnappings occur regularly in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, though a 2009 amnesty deal greatly reduced unrest there.

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