“I had lost a lot of my hair; I was missing seven teeth that my captors had knocked out, and I as missing toe nails due to malnourishment. Those were my days living in what I called ‘The Dark House,’ forbidden to speak, wondering if I could survive the next 10 minutes.”
Those are the powerful words of Alberta-born Amanda Lindhout, describing those terrible days when she and another man were taken hostage for 15 months by Islamic militants on a hot and dusty day in August of 2008 near Mogadishu, Somalia.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m only-27-years old, what have I done to deserve this?’” she told a hushed group gathered at the Chubb Canada offices in Toronto, Ont., her trembling voice betraying those months of torture and anguish. “My faith in human decency was lost; what had led me to travel around the world was lost. I became consumed by anger and self-pity.”
Lindhout now travels with kidnap and ransom insurance wherever she goes – and it is an important coverage that is driven home with audiences when she explains that she would have been freed within days or weeks, had there been insurance to pay out to the kidnappers.
“My parents didn’t have that kind of money,” she says, “after 10 months of working with Ottawa, the government finally recommended that they explore ‘other options,’ meaning to hire a private company to negotiate with the kidnappers.”
That company, AKE Group, eventually secured the deal that freed Lindhout for a quarter of the amount of ransom that the kidnappers had been asking.
Travel insurance, including kidnap and ransom coverage, is actually on the rise in several areas, says Roberta Zurrer, a commercial lines broker with McDougall Insurance & Financial.
“Sadly, it is a growth area of insurance,” Zurrer said. “With more employees travelling abroad, kidnappings are becoming more prevalent.”
Kidnapping statistics show average ransom demands in 2012 of $2 million, with a total of $1.5 billion extorted. In Mexico, a favorite vacation destination for many Americans, the average kidnapper earnings comes to $50 million per year.
Corporations are moving into some lawless parts of the world, and as such executives and their families can become victims of just such criminal activity. A full 61% of all kidnappings globally are of employees and their dependents.
“Dealing with a kidnapping or hijacking, negotiating with criminals or rescuing hostages can be incredibly expensive and takes a lot of experience and very particular skills,” says David Marsh, an account executive with Axis Insurance Managers Inc. “Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion Insurance means that when trouble strikes, you have the very best people on your side.”
The kidnap policy from Axis Insurance includes a specialist service provider and experts in hostage recovery, like Control Risks International.
“We’ll give you their emergency number at the start of the policy. That way, in the event of a kidnapping or hijack taking place, you can call the specialists direct, with just your policy number, to take immediate control of the situation,” says Marsh. “All the fees and expenses incurred by the specialist are unlimited following an insured event and they work completely independently of Axis Insurance Inc. Thankfully, 93% of all kidnaps are ended successfully.”