Thousands of Australians who fear being abducted while on overseas business trips have signed for kidnap and extortion insurance.

At least three unidentified Australian businessmen have been held for ransom overseas this year, including one case in Colombia, where 10 abductions happen a day.

The Sunday Herald Sun found up to 23,000 Australians had specialised ransom policies in place and the booming industry was tipped to be worth more than $12 million in premiums.

The increase of the policies was the result of increasing numbers of Australians working in countries where kidnappings were common, according to experts.

Specialised risk broker Stening Simpson partner Peter Stening said his company had successfully negotiated the release of 16 Australians in the past 33 years and warned incidents were on the rise.
“Indonesia is getting worse and the Philippines is a basket case,” Mr Stening said.

“Mexico is absolutely shocking – we don’t allow insured people to visit some areas there. There have been major increases in the past five years – that portion of our business has quadrupled. Kidnapping is a lucrative business.”

Up to 24 Australian citizens have been abducted overseas in the past 10 years, according to figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

To stop the kidnappers increasing their demands, few of the cases were reported in the media.

The case of Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout was the best known in recent years.

Brennan and Lindhout were kidnapped in Somalia on August 23, 2008, at gunpoint outside the capital, Mogadishu, on a visit to a refugee camp.

Neither had insurance and were tortured for 15 months while experts negotiated their release.

Industry experts estimated there were 8000 kidnappings worldwide last year with ransom demands ranging from $5000 to $100 million.