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Kidnap victim with Canary link had finger amputated in ransom demand 

PAGE 15 KIDNAP

A kidnap victim whose finger was amputated and sent through the post to his family in Spain as part of a 500,000 dollar ransom demand has been freed after 38 days in captivity.

The authorities have confirmed the successful release following an operation involving the FBI in Florida, police in Panama and the Spanish Civil Guard.

No details have been given about the kidnap victim other than some of the family members from whom the money was demanded live in the Canary Islands. His age is not known,but it is presu-med to be a man, possibly in his 20s.

The Spanish citizen was kidnapped in Venezuela whilst visiting members of his family.

The Civil Guard in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, was alerted to his kidnapping by other Spanish relatives.

It is understood the man was travelling in a car with his brother near the town of El Sombrero in Venezuela when their terrifying ordeal began.

“The kidnappers posed as Venezuelan policemen and were heavily armed with automatic weapons and bullet-proof vests,” said a spokesman for the Civil Guard.

After a few hours, they released one of the victims, police confirmed, so he could act as a go-between and get the half a million dollars demanded for his brother’s release.

A negotiation team was then called in and officers sent both to Venezuela and the United States.

Investigations revealed the calls were being made by a man in Tampa, Florida, which is when the FBI was called in.

At one stage, one of the victim’s fingers was severed and sent to his family in Spain to put more pressure on them to pay up.

“The FBI, with data from the investigation provided by the Civil Guard, identified and detained the criminal who made extortion calls,” said the Civil Guard. “He was a Venezuelan citizen and resident in the US with an extensive criminal record in his country of origin.”

However, despite the arrest of this first kidnapper, another man started threatening the victim’s family via phone calls. These calls were made from Panama.

This second “negotiator” turned out to be a member of the Venezuelan criminal organisation called “El Tren de Aragua”. In turn, the network worked for a second criminal gang, described as extremely dangerous, called “La Banda del Picure”.

Following extensive work, the investigators were able to free the kidnap victim who had been kept for 38 days.

He was described as being in relatively good health, over and above the amputation and the physical and mental deterioration he had suffered during his captivity.

He told police he had been kept under tight securit by a gang of around 20 armed men who had guns, knives and hand grenades. He believes he was kept in a forest but was moved, military-style, at least three times a day. The areas were always sparsely populated and away from any other houses or people.

There are constant kid-nappings in Venezuela but not all conclude with the successful release of the victims who are frequently killed by the violent gangs.