Paying Ransoms: A Dangerous Precedent

Kidnap and Ransom scenarios are extremely high risk and rarely straight forward.  There is no guarantee that paying a ransom will lead to a safe hostage release.  As the families of Paul and Rachel Chandler learned it can spawn more demands for cash, a practice known as ‘double-dipping’.  Gut wrenching as that blow must have been, the Chandlers were lucky.  Some kidnappers take the money and kill.

I can’t fault any family for doing everything in their power to free their loved ones.  But ransom payments do make the world a more dangerous place.  Caving to hostage takers encourages them to keep kidnapping and even amplifies the problem by tempting more criminals to the trade.  That is why I agree with our government’s policy of not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers. Britain wants to shut down kidnappers, not reward them.

In practice though, this stance has made little difference on the ground.   Britain’s efforts have been frustrated enormously by countries that do pay for the release of their citizens. In Afghanistan, some nations involved in NATO’s coalition have been happy to pay ransoms for the return of their nationals. As a result, kidnapping is now not only a political act in Afghanistan; it is a booming, for profit enterprise involving Taliban and gangs of organized criminals.  

Ransom payments by families and employers of kidnap victims also undermine British government policy.  Even in cases where British nationals are seized, Government cannot stop private citizens and firms from digging into their pockets to meet the kidnappers’ demands.  Ideally, families and employers of British kidnap victims work hand-in-hand with Government; not parallel to it.  The Government has many weapons in its K&R arsenal not available to the private sector such as behind the scenes diplomatic pressure and of course the most powerful—the military option.

Paul and Rachel Chandler endured a horrible ordeal, one that thankfully ended with their safe return home.  But as long as kidnapping produces financial returns, you can be sure that many more innocent victims will fall prey to this dreadful money spinner.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Kidnap & RansomTags, , , , 2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Paying Ransoms: A Dangerous Precedent”

  1. I agree that paying a ransom just increases the problem but as always its not that straight forward. The government should always refuse to be drawn in on this paying for hostage release but I’m not sure how many people could sit back if it were their loved ones held hostage and not try to raise the money for their release, risky as that may be. If my mom or dad were in that position then I know that I would do all I could to help them even though there is no guarantee of release and that my actions would make future hostage taking more likely.
    In my humble opinion, our government should have come down like a ton of bricks on these kidnapers and put all their vast resources into finding them and getting them back whilst also showing future kidnapers what happens when they mess with the wrong people. Who knows how much our government knew about their location and position and if they could have rescued them if they had wanted to earlier or maybe they knew that a release was coming up soon. To me it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack but to our well trained forces and SF, maybe it’s easy if the will power is there. Who knows!!!!!!!

  2. It is great news to finally hear that the Chandlers are free and well.

    What surprises me however is the lack of international action to prevent acts of piracy occuring on such a frequent basis.
    This is not helped when ransoms are paid as Bob has pointed out above.

    It will be interesting to see how our involvement in Afghanistan develops under the current government and if they can tackle the problems with have with extremism at home.

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