• France's news in English
 

Experts cynical over French ransom denials

AFP/The Local · 31 Oct 2013, 09:23

Published: 31 Oct 2013 09:23 GMT+01:00

The four French hostages, seized by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in northern Niger in 2010, returned to France on Wednesday after more than three years in captivity.

French officials have repeatedly denied that a ransom was paid for their release, but sources in Niger and France have told AFP and other media that more than 20 million euros ($28 million) was paid to AQIM and intermediaries.

Quoting a well-placed French source, newspaper Le Monde said the payment came directly from "secret funds allocated to the intelligence services".

Experts said there was little doubt a payment was made.

"Governments and companies pay in almost every case," a former senior French intelligence official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There is always a ransom or an exchange of some sort: money, the release of prisoners, arms deliveries."

The US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, said last year that "terrorist organisations" had raised more than $120 million in ransom payments in the previous eight years.

He told an audience at Chatham House that the amounts of ransom demands were going up and that Europeans were being mainly targeted because of the belief their governments would pay.

"AQIM, the Al-Qaeda affiliate that has likely profited most from kidnapping for ransom, has collected tens of millions of dollars through KFR (kidnapping for ransom) operations since 2008," he said.

"It has become increasingly clear that AQIM is using revenues from kidnapping for ransom to expand its reach and influence."

As well as the French, the Spanish and Italians have been singled out for allegedly paying ransoms, including a reported 15 million euro payment last year to free two Spaniards and an Italian held in Mali.

"There is an established precedent of ransoms being paid to kidnappers... This primarily involves European governments," said Geoff Porter, the head of New York-based North Africa Risk Consulting.

"If you pay ransoms to kidnappers, then there's a potential industry in hostage-taking," he said.

The United States and Britain have repeatedly raised concerns about such payments, with Britain using its presidency of the G8 this year to push for a ban on ransoms.

G8 leaders gathered in Northern Ireland in June signed a deal to "unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists" but did not impose a formal ban.

British officials said at the time that Al-Qaeda-linked groups around the world had made $70 million from mainly Western hostages over the last two years.

A former US ambassador to Mali, Vicki Huddleston, said this year that European governments were "helping AQIM to grow strong, buy weapons and recruit" with ransom payments.

"The US gets very angry about this... Some of the European governments have been seen as softer on this issue," said Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow in counter-terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute.

"The long-term effects of this are that, first, the groups will probably do it again and second, it gives the organisation money... to swell its coffers," he said.

Pantucci said that in many cases ransom payments were made not by governments but by employers and family members, making them more difficult to oversee.

"Governments don't control all the reins when it comes to this issue," he said.

And experts said it was easy understand why many governments want to keep all options on the table when it comes to rescuing hostages.

"At the end of the day, it's awfully difficult to look into the eyes of family members of hostages and say that as a matter of principle we are going to let them die," Porter said

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Gérard Depardieu: 'I want to sell up in France'
The French actor still has property in France. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

Gérard Depardieu: 'I want to sell up in France'

8 hours ago

French actor and tax exile Gérard Depardieu has declared that he will "sell everything" in his home country, French media has reported.

France confirms wing part is from flight MH370
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to the piece of debris on Réunion island. Photo: AFP

France confirms wing part is from flight MH370

8 hours ago

French prosecutors confirmed on Thursday that a piece of debris found on the Indian island of Réunion was from the Malaysian airlines flight MH370.

Butcher gets jail term for cannabis cake prank
The cake in this picture is not the cake from the story. Photo: Michał Bażak/Flickr

Butcher gets jail term for cannabis cake prank

10 hours ago

A French supermarket butcher has been handed a suspended prison sentence after he gave his colleagues a cannabis-laced chocolate cake, a move that caused the shop to close and five people to be hospitalized.

Guest blog - French exports
How English fans are funding French football
Anthony Martial's "€80 million" move to Manchester United will help prop up French football. Photo: AFP

How English fans are funding French football

11 hours ago

Forget fine wines, luxury perfumes and cars, France's most important export to the UK could be its footballers and it's all thanks to the legion of English armchair fans, argues Martin Dixon from the Franco British Chamber of Commerce. Vive l'entente cordial.

French farmers' protest
French farmers' tractor protest rolls into Paris
A convoy of tractors runs in a street of Paris on Thursday. Photo: AFP

French farmers' tractor protest rolls into Paris

11 hours ago

UPDATED: Up to 1,700 tractors along with thousands of furious farmers descended on Paris on Thursday in a show of force to raise attention to their plight. Motorists have been told to stay off the roads.

Russia rejects French proposal to limit UN veto
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. Photo: AFP

Russia rejects French proposal to limit UN veto

13 hours ago

Russia on Wednesday dismissed as "populist" a French proposal to limit the use of the veto at the UN Security Council and said it would oppose it.

Time for France to show fraternité to refugees?
Should France stick to its traditions and accept more refugees? Photo: AFP

Time for France to show fraternité to refugees?

13 hours ago

As images of a drowned Syrian boy shock Europe to the core, France like other EU nations comes under more pressure to welcome more refugees. But will France open its doors as it has done in the past?

Migrant crisis
France joins call for reform of asylum rules
A rescuer walks past migrants waiting to disembark from the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo. Photo: AFP

France joins call for reform of asylum rules

16 hours ago

France joined Germany and Italy in calling for an overhaul of laws on the right of asylum and a fairer distribution of migrants throughout the European Union, Italy's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

French jobless rate stays stable at ten percent
May Day protests in France where marchers demanding jobs and labour reform.

French jobless rate stays stable at ten percent

16 hours ago

French unemployment was stable in the second quarter at around 10 percent, official data showed on Thursday, as the EU's second-largest economy continues to grapple with a stagnant economy.

Eurostar nightmare: 'We can hardly complain'
Passengers on a Eurostar train plunged into darkness, but should we really complain? Photo: Simon Gentry

Eurostar nightmare: 'We can hardly complain'

1 day ago

The Local's Oliver Gee was one of thousands of passengers stranded for hours on six Eurostar trains that became blocked when migrants broke through security. He says it's hard to complain given the hardship of those that caused the chaos.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Why has France abandoned its tradition of sheltering refugees?
Thousands of furious French farmers roll in to Paris on tractors
National
Winter is coming as Paris hosts Game of Thrones exhibition
Came for love, fear for job, but adore way of life - Are you a typical expat?
Would a new Calais migrant camp be a step back to the days of Sangatte?
Opinion
French education is in 'crisis' - Here are ten ways to fix it
French minister says 35-hour week not working in France
IN PICS: Police evict 300 people from France's oldest shanty town
Features
Take a look at some of the wackiest bars you can find in Paris
National
Feminist stunt sees French road signs changed for the day
Travel
Could coaches overtake trains when it comes to travelling in France?
Meet the five heroes who foiled the French train attack
National
France set for 'tourism record' of 85 million visitors in 2015
National
Paris students are helping police to warn Asian visitors about crime
Naked couple found dead beside French fortress
Europe's biggest science museum burns in Paris
Robber found half-naked and asleep in French beauty salon
National
Here are eight tips for blending in with the French while at the beach
Humans of Paris: We meet the man changing our perception of Parisians
National
France reveals new plans for Sunday and late-night shopping
Read about this revolutionary kidney op in a Toulouse hospital
National
Panic after four dogs 'poisoned' after walks in Paris park
France hit by huge summer spike in abandoned pets
National
France boils in second hottest summer ever
Technology
Meet Max - the first person in France to receive a 3D-printed hand
Politics
French minister admits to 'Obama engagement' tweeting mishap
Features
From giant bubbles to treehouses - here are the craziest hotels in France
National
How would you like to spend a night in the Palace of Versailles?
French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years
Features
We talk to Calais residents about their migrant crisis
National
Cow spared after fleeing from abattoir in France
FIVE reasons why everyone should visit Calais... yes Calais
Travel
France for adrenaline junkies: Ten crazy things to do
VIDEO: Slingshot elastic breaks on ride at French theme park
This plant might spell the end of the Asian hornet invasion
Who says the French don't like speaking English
National
It may be trickier to find a baguette in Paris this August
Killers of French student were 'inspired by Breaking Bad'
Ten must-see French gems you probably never thought of visiting
Is it time for France to force Britain to move border back across Channel?
Is romance in France just a "heterosexual concept"?
Can YOU pronounce these ten French town names?
Dog buried alive sparks French social media fury
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se