May 23, 2018 / 7:51 AM / 6 months ago

South Africa kidnappers demand ransom in bitcoin to free teenager

A token of the virtual currency Bitcoin is seen placed on a monitor that displays binary digits in this illustration picture, December 8, 2017. Picture taken December 8. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A criminal gang in South Africa who kidnapped a teenage boy on Sunday are demanding a ransom in bitcoin crytocurrency 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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