Pakistan: Police Bust Bitcoin Ransom Kidnapping Scheme

  • Authorities in Lahore, Pakistan have arrested a gang of men who had kidnapped a college professor.
  • The men had demanded that a ransom of about $140,000 be paid in Bitcoin, however police officials found the criminals and arrested them.

Police officials in Lahore, Pakistan have reportedly uncovered a financial crime involving suspects who kidnapped a local resident and demanded that a ransom that was to be paid in bitcoin (BTC).

Notably, the criminals allegedly involved in the incident included Mazhar Abbas, who had been working as a phone operator in the office of Lahore’s deputy commissioner (DC). An incident report prepared by local authorities noted that Abbas was taken into police custody on March 23, 2019. Abbas’ arrest was made while he was attending an official ceremony with the DC.

Police Constables Allegedly Involved In Bitcoin Ransom Crime

According to Dawn News, Lahore-based police Constables Mohammad Arif and Mohsin Abbas, who are believed to also be involved in the incident, had been serving as the official guards of the city’s High Court Judge. Other men who have now been charged for allegedly helping facilitate the crime include Sheikh Abdul Rauf, a resident of Faisalabad, and Mohammad Tahir, who resides in Lahore. Both Rauf and Tahir are local money exchangers and BTC dealers.

Other suspects listed in the police report include Faisal Yousuf, who’s currently studying information technology at a university in Lahore. The victim, a professor named Shahid Naseer, was reportedly kidnapped by the group of men and he was being forcefully held as the criminals demanded that a ransom worth 20 million Pakistani rupees (appr. $142,000) be paid in Bitcoin.

First Bitcoin Ransom Incident In Pakistan

As detailed in the incident report, the recent kidnapping crime involving bitcoin may have been the first attempt by Pakistan-based criminals to demand ransom in the pseudonymous cryptocurrency. In statements shared with Dawn News, Rashid Hidayat, a Saddar Division police officer, noted six offenders, which include the “prime suspect,” had now been arrested. Hidayat also confirmed that the professor who had been kidnapped was now free and no longer in danger.

According to Hidayat, Yousuf (the student) planned to kidnap his teacher, Professor Naseer, and managed to convince the other suspects to take part in the crime. The gang of criminals first rented a vehicle from Sheikhupura, and then drove it to the Deputy Commissioner’s office. This is reportedly where Abbas removed the car’s registration plate and replaced it with a green colored plate, which is used by Pakistan’s government officials.

After kidnapping Professor Naseer, he was taken to Sheikhupura where he was being held - while the criminals began making phone calls in which they asked that a ransom be paid in Bitcoin. After receiving part of the ransom (2.5 million Pak rupees), the offenders had tried to obtain the remaining amount they had demanded. However, police officials investigating the matter managed to track down the criminals and immediately arrested them.