Companies are increasingly aware of the risks of kidnap and extortion for personnel travelling overseas but the incident involving a wealthy Sydney family on Wednesday has come as a shock, experts say.
“The episode was something out of left field, “said Peter Stening, Chief Executive of Stening Simpson Group, which brokers insurance and provides personal protection for executives travelling to high-risk countries.
“We never expected to see that sort of thing happen here.”
Police are investigating a possible extortion attempt after a masked man chained a hoax bomb to the neck of
18 year old, Madeleine Pulver, daughter of Mosman couple William and Belinda Pulver.
Mr. Pulver is Chief Executive of Appen Butler Hill, a company that provides linguistic and voice recognition services for government agencies and clients including IBM, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Toshiba and Motorola.
This type of extortion attempt is uncommon in Australia although extortion demands have been made against high-profile companies such as Arnotts, Herron and Multiplex.
“It is a very unusual and rare crime type in this country,” a spokesman for the Australian Institute of Criminology said yesterday.
Nevertheless, some companies and individuals do take out what is known as corporate protection insurance – or kidnap, ransom and extortion insurance.
The insurance can cover activities conducted in Australia and overseas and payouts are awarded for injury, negotiator fees, rewards leading to arrest, forgone salary for the individual involved, and recuperation.
“People are more and more aware of the threats, especially while they are overseas,” Mr. Stening said. He nominated Columbia, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Middle East as trouble spots. “We are engaged by major organisations to protect and advise their workers who are going into certain countries.”
“We know hour by hour and minute by minute where one particular person will be in a particular country.”
Michael Beveridge, National Manager of income and corporate protection for insurance broker, Marsh Australia, said there were no statistics on take up rates for insurance against kidnap, ransom and extortion because insurers did not want to give potential perpetrators clues as to who might be covered and for how much.
“Most of the corporations would take out this cover especially to protect their expats or travelling staff,” he said.
“A well known individual should probably consider it for himself and his family. One example is a high profile sportsperson who might go to Third World countries to demonstrate his sport.”
While an ordinary travel insurance policy might provide a nominal benefit of led than $1 million, corporate protection carried benefits in the millions of dollars, he said.