Author Topic: How to Negotiate a Ransom  (Read 1574 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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How to Negotiate a Ransom
« on: June 06, 2015, 07:09:32 am »
How to Negotiate a Ransom
APRIL 17, 2015


“Make sure they’re alive first,” says Leslie Edwards, a top hostage negotiation specialist and former British Army officer. Demand to speak to the captive on the phone, or better still, on video chat. If that is not possible, ask the abductor to answer what Edwards calls a “proof-of-life question,” something only the kidnapped would know, like the name of a pet goldfish. Ransom amounts vary widely. At the high end, Edwards once settled at $10 million to secure the release of 26 crew members aboard an oil tanker held by Somali pirates, but he has also freed a detainee in Afghanistan for less than $10,000. A counteroffer to the first ransom demands should be a result of exhaustive research. “You don’t need to know their names, but you need to know their modus operandi and their track record,” Edwards says. Whether the hostage-takers’ motives are purely mercenary or derive from a more dangerous mix of ideology, politics and greed, this is not the time to be a cheapskate. “Make a decent opening offer that puts value on the life of the hostage,” he says.

As with any negotiation, be firm but cordial. Act in good faith. Find middle ground. Most hostage-takers are professionals, in a sense; they’ve kidnapped before and expect a certain level of respect. In fact, take heart in decorum. Skittish amateurs are the ones prone to panic-induced violence. Edwards prefers to haggle with Somali pirates, who tend to be free-market-entrepreneur types “unlikely to kill,” he says.

Whether you’re bargaining with ISIS or Latin American drug cartels, avoid publicity. The last thing a ransom negotiator needs is “a rally, a candlelight vigil or a bunch of newspaper articles.” Any suggestion of notoriety that can be easily found online might result in higher asking prices.

Once you’ve settled on a sum, be ready to coordinate a stressful flurry of logistics (professional security teams, cash drops from airplanes). Be steadfast and communicative; your adversaries must maintain confidence in you to deliver the promised cash, just as you will need to have faith in them to hand over the victim. In the end, Edwards says, “it’s a sort of trust.”