Insurance for the darkest hour: Lalita Mohabir

When underwriter Lalita Mohabir was growing up in Guyana, her father instilled in her a love of reading and politics. Now she’s an expert on extreme types of insurance

Insurance News


When Lalita Mohabir was a girl growing up in Guyana, her father – a postmaster – instilled in her a love of reading, and a passion for politics. Today, those twin loves converge on a daily basis when she sits down in her office in Toronto to review high-level intelligence reports about the dangers fomenting in far flung corners of the world, from corporate kidnappings to disease outbreaks to political uprisings.

As National Product Leader, Personal Accident offering worldwide accidental death and dismemberment coverage at Burns & Wilcox Canada, and a highly regarded expert on kidnap and ransom insurance, it’s Mohabir’s job to keep tabs on such things, along with all sorts of other fascinating information streaming in from companies with footholds around the globe.

“You see where employees or individuals are traveling, what they are doing, what their occupations are,” Mohabir said. “Most people would never realize that we have so many Canadians and US citizens traveling and working in all of these politically volatile countries.”

A growing number of these globe-trotters are at risk of being abducted and held for ransom. Fueled by war, terrorism, economic crisis and political unrest, kidnapping occurs around the globe with unnerving frequency. “It’s the stark reality of doing business abroad,” Mohabir said. “Anywhere where there is political  or civil unrest, these workers can get caught up in the middle.”

Often, as the saying goes, it’s simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Top targeted business classes for abduction include aid organizations, journalists, and mining and gas companies in highly volatile countries.

Mohabir helps brokers and agents to help their clients (companies and individuals) mitigate the risk of these emotionally and financially devastating events by underwriting highly customized kidnap and ransom (K&R), accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) Disability and Medical insurance policies. Coverage ranges from $500,000 to $20 million and can last from two days to two or more years.

A Unique Background...

Mohabir immigrated from Guyana to Canada as a young adult with her parents and nine siblings. Coming from a poor, politically volatile Caribbean country where ethnically based parties frequently clash made her appreciate from an early age how important it is to be aware of what is going on around you at all times.

This awareness has enhanced her skill as an underwriter and helped her appreciate the value of K&R, AD&D, Disability and Medical coverage. She has made it her mission to share this appreciation with others.

“K&R is an undervalued, underestimated insurance coverage,” Mohabir explained. “Even high net worth individuals frequently fall prey to the ‘It can’t happen to me’ syndrome.”

Unfortunately, she said, this mindset leads to many individuals, organizations and companies not taking the proper precautions, making them natural targets for terrorists and criminal enterprises, while exposing themselves to the financial and political repercussions of an uncovered K&R event or accident.

“It baffles me how many people are out there – clients and even some brokers – who still do not fully comprehend the importance and value of the K&R insurance coverage,” Mohabir said. This attitude is beginning to change, however, as the threat of kidnapping, extortion and detention has dramatically increased at home and abroad.

The resolution of a kidnap incident is rife with danger and conflicting interests. When a covered individual is abducted, the family or employer of the victim calls a hotline to activate the response. A crisis response team behind the policy then assists with the entire negotiation. These consultants know the languages and customs of kidnapping hotspots and have substantial experience negotiating demands in order to get the victim out of a dangerous situation.

As an underwriter, Mohabir is not part of any crisis negotiation, but is kept abreast of its conclusion. In all of the cases that Mohabir has covered, the outcomes were positively resolved and the K&R policy reimbursed the policyholder.

It takes a special calling to do this type of work.

“When you do K&R, AD&D, Disability and Medical insurance, you have to ask all of the right questions,” Mohabir said. “I like to make sure I have all relevant information including travel advisories and up-to-date knowledge of what is going on in the world. It is what I enjoy doing and I can’t see myself doing any other kind of insurance. I don’t consider it a job. I get to do what I love every single day.”



In September alone, according to a monthly kidnap digest published by Unity Resources Group, significant K&R events included:

  • The abduction of Egyptian construction workers and southeast Asian medical staff in Tripoli and Sirte by the Islamic State;
  • The abduction of a Norwegian and two Canadian tourists in the Philippines by criminals suspected of working for Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG);
  • The release of U.S., one Brit, and three Saudi nationals in Yemen after Houthi rebels illegally detained them for six months;
  • A ransom demand for $151,000 USD for the son of a local businessman kidnapped by criminals in Hyderabad, India;
  • The execution of the father and brother of a well-known filmmaker in Tamaulipas, Mexico by a suspected drug cartel (despite the family having made a ransom payment);
  • The abduction and subsequent rescue of a 6-year-old child in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for whom kidnappers had demanded a ransom of $980,000 USD.

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