• France's news in English

France 'world’s top payer' of ransoms for hostages

The Local/AFP · 30 Jul 2014, 18:27

Published: 30 Jul 2014 18:27 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Officially France says it does not negotiate with terrorists for the release of hostages but an investigation by the New York Times has backed up the oft-made claims that France is the most likely country to pay up.

The claims have angered the French government, who once again insisted to The Local on Wednesday that "France does not pay ransoms".

But the American daily claims that since 2008 France has handed over $58 million in ransom payments for the release of numerous hostages. That put France top of the ransom rankings of European countries above Switzerland ($12.4 million) and Spain ($5.9 million) and Austria ($3.2 million). The US and the UK have refusedto pay ransoms.

These millions have become the principal source of funding for extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda, the newspaper said, repeating an argument made by David Cohen, US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in 2012.

The New York Times said former hostages and high level diplomats from various countries confirmed the figures on ransom payments.

Following the kidnapping of an entire French family in Cameroon last year France became the country with the most nationals being held hostage by terrorist groups around the world.

But since then various hostages have been freed, amid claims that huge ransoms were paid for their release.

In October last year The Local reported how the French government was forced to angrily deny reports it had handed over €20 million to free four hostages in Niger.

French daily Le Monde, citing a source close to the operation to free the men, published the claims.

The source, who talked about an eight-day operation to free the men, said the money was paid out of three secret bank accounts.

Another source, close to the Nigerien negotiating team, quoted by AFP, said between €20 and €25 million was paid.

The money went to the hostage-takers and to intermediaries on the ground who played a key role in securing the release, the source added.

Experts have said that while paying ransoms means a happy ending for the hostages and their families, it simple puts others at risk of the same fate by creating a kidnapping industry.

"If you pay ransoms to kidnappers, then there's a potential industry in hostage-taking," Geoff Porter, the head of New York-based North Africa Risk Consulting told AFP.

“Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow in counter-terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute added: "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.

Story continues below…

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.

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, from North Africa Risk Consulting said.

The French government, as perhaps would be expected, has continued to deny it pays for the release of hostages. 

"We have no position other than the one repeatedly affirmed by the President of the Republic and the Minister of Foreign Affairs: France does not pay ransoms," a foreign office spokesman told The Local on Wednesday.

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available