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- Wealth and prominence can render a person an attractive target for kidnappers seeking ransom or notoriety.
- Over the years, abductions of rich business magnates and famous executives have generated a burst of media coverage.
- Here are a few examples of high-profile indviduals who became the victims of a kidnapping.
There’s a reason that kidnapping insurance is a thing.
Whether a kidnapper’s motive revolves around money or notoriety, the rich and famous often prove to be tempting targets for abduction.
Some of the names on this list survived their ordeals, either due to successful ransom payments, police raids, or circumstances that prompted their captors to release them. Unfortunately, others were senselessly murdered, and a few have never been found.
Here’s a look at some of the most infamous kidnappings of millionaires and top executives:
A French industrialist gave his captors ‘Stockholm syndrome in reverse’
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Baron Édouard-Jean Empain was a man who gave his kidnappers "Stockholm syndrome in reverse," the BBC reported. That’s according to Alain Caillol, one of the men who kidnapped the multimillionaire in 1978.
The New York Times reported that the kidnappers sprung a trap on Empain — who ran the French‐Belgian Empain‐Schneider industrial group — in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. The group of abductors blocked in Empain’s limousine with a truck, van, and motorcycle and grabbed their target.
Despite the fact that he incurred sympathy from kidnappers like Caillol, Empain’s captivity was reportedly brutal. According to France 24, he was tortured, starved, and kept chained in a basement in the suburbs of Paris. The kidnappers even sent his daughter the bloody tip of his finger, the Times reported.
The businessman was freed after Caillol was captured and another abductor was killed by police during a botched ransom pick-up. Caillol persuaded the rest of the kidnapping gang to release Empain unharmed, according to the BBC.
Empain was found wandering the streets of Paris in a disoriented state after 63 days of captivity.
The head of one of Hong Kong’s most powerful companies has never been found
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Hong Kong business magnate Teddy Wang survived a number of kidnappings over the course of his career, according to Post Magazine.
Wang was the chairman of Chinachem Group, a powerful real estate development firm. His wealth — Post Magazine estimates that his net worth was around $7.5 billion at the time — put him at risk for kidnappers seeking a major payout.
But, when a gang seized the businessman from his Mercedes on April 10, 1999, they reportedly did not keep him alive in order to barter for a ransom. Forbes reported that the gang of abductors allegedly bundled Wang onto a sampan and dumped him, bound and gagged, in the sea.
Wang’s body was never found, and he was declared legally dead in 1999. However, his wife Nina, who replaced her husband as chair of Chinachem, reportedly never gave up searching for Wang.
Post Magazine reported that she funded a search that endured long after she died in 2007.
A kidnapper tormented the family of a top Dutch grocery executive for months
Gerrit Jan Heijn was an integral member of his family’s multimillion-dollar business.
Heijn’s grandfather Albert had founded a Dutch grocery store in 1887, which would ultimately spawn the retail giant Ahold. Today, the holding company owns US grocers like Food Lion, Giant, and Stop & Shop.
The founder’s grandsons took on leadership roles within the company. Albert Jr. became CEO, while Heijn took on the role of vice president.
On September 9, 1987, a man named Ferdi Elsas kidnapped Heijn outside of his Haarlem home. Over several months, Elsas accrued a $4 million ransom from the family and even mailed Heijn’s loved ones a severed finger as proof-of-life, according to the Associated Press.
In January 1988, police captured Elsas by tracing the guilder notes used in the ransom payment. But it was too late to save Heijn. On the day of the abduction, Elsas drove his victim out into a remote forest, shot him in the head, and hid the body.
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