Anti-Kidnap Advice for Business Travelers

Anti-Kidnap Advice for Business Travelers

Anti-Kidnap for Business Travelers - Countering the Threat

On Monday night, April 15, 2013, a French businessman was abducted in Madagascar. Francis Raphael, the managing director of Henri Fraise, a machinery and plant company was kidnapped in the suburbs of the capital, Antananarivo. He was kidnapped just a few hundred yards from his home after reportedly five people, heavily armed with AK-47’s and an automatic pistol ambushed his vehicle and boarded his car. They abandoned the vehicle a few miles away and released the driver, who then raised the alarm.

The kidnappers apparently soon made contact with the wife of their hostage. They ensured that the captive was healthy and demanded a ransom of at least EUR 244,000 despite admitting they had intended to snatch his colleague. They had apparently wanted to kidnap the company's chairman. But the gang still sought a ransom for his release. Originally, the hostiles demanded $395,000 (300,000 euro), but this price was dropped after telephone negotiations with the family.

Kidnappings have increased on the Indian Ocean island in recent months, where security has worsened since the ouster of President Marc Ravalomanana in 2009. This is the first time that a French citizen has been a victim of kidnapping in Madagascar, with Indian nationals and large traders usually targeted.  It also highlights the danger to business executives, even if you are not the CEO. The kidnapping tide is certainly rising throughout the world and it is becoming increasingly important that businesses and organizations take steps to protect their employees.

Orchestrated Armed Attack 

From information gleamed it seems clear that it was an orchestrated and committed attack by an armed group.  There had obviously been a degree of intelligence gathering prior to the attack and although the process seems to have faltered with a misidentification of their initial target it was by all accounts successful. Utilizing this case study it is possible to identify measures that could have been put into place to counter the threat of kidnap.

Countering the Threat of Kidnap

To minimize the risk and counter the threat of kidnap it is essential that a number of security procedures are put into place and followed. There are three main areas of focus that remain priority:

  1. To deter potential attackers.
  2. To pre-empt an attack.
  3. To thwart an attack

Using the scenario of Mr. Raphael let us look at these three in more detail.

1.) Anti-Kidnap: Deterring the threat

To deter a threat an individual or group has to make themselves a hard target. The terrorist group November 17 assassinated the British Military attaché to Greece in 2000 in Athens.  The group admitted they attacked him as they saw him as an easy target, their favored targets the Americans had tightened their security and made themselves hard targets. What could Mr. Raphael and the company responsible for his safety have done to make him a harder target?

Implement and follow security procedures

Security procedures must be designed by security professionals with an in-depth knowledge of terrorist and criminal methodology. They must carry out a full risk and threat assessment of the local area, region and country.  Once procedures are designed they need to be implemented, followed and practiced.  

Was Mr. Raphael even aware of the risk? Kidnappings had been worsening in the country recently, had he and the business taken the necessary precautions to minimize his own personal risk. Did he constantly vary routes to and from destinations, did he have a set routine, did he have overt security, was he taking precautions? Was he trained in situational awareness and prevention methodology?

Intelligence suggests he had a driver, was this driver also a security officer? If so, what precautions did he undertake, was he providing overt security and acting as a deterrent? Was he fully vetted and not implicit in the kidnap? Was there due-diligence in place to vet employees?

2. Anti-Kidnap: Pre-empting the Threat

To identify a threat early and effectively will allow an individual or group time to react and therefore dramatically improve their chances of avoiding an attack. In this case this would have been by either withdrawing from the area, increasing security and/or informing the authorities to investigate, arrest and detain the suspects. What methods can be used to identify threats early?

Anti Surveillance and Counter surveillance  

From the evidence available it seems that pre-attack surveillance was likely carried out Click here to learn more about Why Hosiles Utilize Surveillance on their targets. Obtaining the home address of the employee, working out what car he drives, when he leaves and what route he takes, and of course triggering him out of the home address to initiate the kidnap. The necessary information required by the hostiles can very rarely be obtained quickly. Intelligence gathering via surveillance and other means normally requires at the very minimum a few days and normally a couple of weeks to obtain the necessary pattern of life, and to identify weaknesses. This time can be shortened with reliable inside sources such as corrupt employees and also technical surveillance methods such as listening devices, GPS trackers etc.

If Mr. Raphael or his driver had been carrying out anti and counter surveillance drills prior to the attack there is a good chance they would have spotted the threat early enough to prevent it. At a basic level these skills do not necessarily require a dedicated security team. Basic skills and drills can be taught to business executives and ‘bodyguards’ to teach them how to minimize risk by learning how to spot hostile surveillance. Learn more about our Counter Surveillance services.

As with everything, every little counts and if a week’s course can be utilized to teach the basics then an individual or group that is deemed at-risk, who may not be able to afford dedicated security teams can significantly minimize their risk. Security procedures that may have been identified in a threat assessment would also help minimize the risk. These procedures could help identify what an untrained individual can do to minimize the risk of technical surveillance and also have highlighted the need for due-diligence on employees and local staff.

3.) Anti-Kidnap: Reaction to a Threat

If the worst-case scenario has taken place there are a number of options open to try and not only escape and evade the attack but also assist in a rescue.

Evasive Driving 

We have no details on Mr. Raphael’s driver, but had he been trained in evasive driving techniques could he have escaped the road block and therefore withdrew his client from the risk. This is only speculative as the road layout, type of ambush and other details were not available. The attackers were by all accounts heavily armed, they may not have been an option to evade.

Personal Locator Devices 

If Mr. Raphael was utilizing covert personal tracking devices he would have been able to initiate an immediate alert and allowed an ops room or security staff to track his location and monitor where he was being taken and thus held. Depending on the devices being used there may also have been an opportunity to listen to the kidnappers through real-time audio, obtain further intelligence and assist in carrying out a rescue.


There is not enough information to comprehensively understand Mr. Raphael’s kidnapping. We do not know what security measures were in place or the finer details of his kidnap. What this case study does help with is to identify and drill home the importance of minimizing risks, identifying threats early and reacting effectively to an attack ensuring the best possible chance of a favorable outcome.

A dedicated and professional security team would be able to carry out and implement all three of the ways to counter kidnap as mentioned above. They are able to implement security procedures, deter the threat, identify it early and react effectively to escape or fight off an attack. They provide the very best possible chance of a favorable outcome. However, what is also clear is that there are other less expensive options to consider for businesses either unwilling or unable to afford the costs of a security team.

Securing Assets

It is no secret that security can be expensive, though many organizations fail to notice the value and their responsibilities of ensuring employees receive the very highest standard of safety and security. The old saying that an organizations employee’s are their greatest asset is no less true today as it was ten years ago. What options do organizations have open to them?

Pre-travel training for their executives, the use of technical security solutions and the design and implementation of security procedures. All these will help work together to minimize the overall risk.  Accurate risk and threat assessments of the countries and regions involved will identify the necessary safety and security protocols that will be required.  These should not just be filed away and thought of as a tick in the box, they need to be practiced, implemented and utilized. It is then a case of budgeting for security staff and equipment, sometimes it is far better to invest in a small number of high quality staff instead of a high number of poorly trained ones. Not to mention the potential use of technical security solutions that are a valuable and cost effective way to improve security.

Hostage Negotiation

The final point from this unfortunate incident is that of kidnap and ransom insurance and hostage negotiation. This is where an investment in not only a comprehensive K&R policy will have been a very wise choice for the business but also for Mr. Raphael and in turn his family. An investment in a K&R policy from reputable firms allows for the provision of expert negotiators, K&R consultants and rescue specialists. All ensuring he has the very best chance of a successful and peaceful negotiation.