First bitcoin ransom in Nigeria leads to arrest of suspected kidnapper

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Updated: March 7, 2021

The Nigerian Police Force in the Federal Capital Territory Command has tracked down and arrested Saadu Abubakari, the main suspect in connection with the kidnap incident involving an exchange of bitcoins worth $15,000 ransom payment, the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It is a decentralized digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries

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Newswire, PRNigeria, reported that the arrest comes as security sources have alleged growing insider connections to most kidnap incidents involving prominent victims especially those from the northern part of Nigeria.

A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chieftain, Dr. Umar Ardo, was in September 2019 forced to pay $15,000 in bitcoins to get his daughter, Ms Aisha Umar, freed by kidnappers.

PRNigeria investigation reveals that the suspect, one Saadu Abubakari, who is currently in the Police custody has made a useful confession that is helping to crack what is regarded as a new trend in kidnapping cases.

The FCT Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, gave a hint of Abubakari’s arrest at the weekend in his weekly update when he disclosed that the Anti-Kidnapping Squad had nabbed “13 members of kidnapping syndicate and other dangerous criminals”.

“Sequel to the ongoing investigation into a reported kidnap incident at Asokoro on 14th September 2019, Police detectives from the Command Anti-Kidnapping Squad have arrested one Saadu Abubakari ‘m’ 23 years in connection with the incident. The suspect was arrested around Apo after the phone number used for the criminal act was traced to him. The Command is making concerted effort to arrest other persons involved in the criminal act,” Ciroma Stated.

The Police had after facilitating the payment of the ransom and release of the suspect engaged its intelligent operatives who swung into action, trailed the suspect (Abubakari) and finally tracked him down in Apo where he was arrested.

Police sources informed PRNigeria that Abubakari, who is a commercial motorcycle rider (Okada) admitted to owning the sim card which was registered in February 2018 but he sold it to another suspect (now at large) who bought it from him for N1000. Abubakari who hails from Kano said he was tricked by a certain female suspect who acted to have lost her way, contacts and desperate for a new sim card to make calls.

“Speaking to him in Hausa, the female suspect negotiated to buy his sim card for N1000 with which the kidnap for ransom deal was made,” Abubakari was said to have confessed.

Further findings also revealed that Abubakari who is illiterate and only speaks Hausa, claims to “have never stolen before, doesn’t know anything about bitcoin or understand how it works, doesn’t have a bank account or ATM card.”

Police said that while the crack team of Intelligence and Investigative officers are on the verge of unravelling the case which according to the sources “sets a precedence in the kidnapping cases because of the bitcoin”, yet there are challenges.

An intelligent officer noted that while the Police are monitoring the situation and so far more than $9000 has been withdrawn from the bitcoin but the sophistication of the technology involved has opened a new chapter challenging their investigative skills.

The officer, however, assured that they have found a way in overcoming the obstacles posed by tracking the bitcoins and would soon nab the culprits.

“We now know that we need a lot of tools, collaborations and more training. We have almost wrapped up this case but there are still gaps and challenges in tracking the bitcoins owing to not only the technical nature of the transactions but the technological tools needed to crack it,” the officer said.

Speaking further, the sources revealed that the investigation has so far disclosed a near certainty of insider connections and involvement in the kidnap incident, adding that Police have uncovered a growing trend of “insider information from family members, other relatives and domestic staff deeply involved in these kidnappings.”

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