A six-month investigation conducted by Al-Jazeera has revealed that large sums of cash have been paid to armed groups by various state governments in exchange for hostage releases.
According to Syrian fighters, Italy paid millions of dollars for the release of an Italian and Belgian journalist. Italy also paid Somali pirates $525,000 in exchange for the release of an Italian-South African dual citizen and his partner. According to Italian and South African government reports, it was a raid that secured the hostage release, not a ransom payment. Al Jazeera also managed to acquire photos of an $11 million cash ransom payment by Italy to al-Nusra Front to release two aid workers.
Al Jazeera’s documentary The Hostage Business revealed the multimillion-dollar payment made for the release of Italian journalist Domenico Quirico, and Pierre Piccinin da Prata, a Belgian journalist.
A middleman in the ransom payment, Mu’taz Shaklab, said “The kidnappers had asked for $10m, but I think they were given $4m”. Mahmoud Daboul, a member of the Farouq Brigades, an armed group fighting in Syria claimed to be a witness to the transaction, claiming “the money consisted of packs of 100,000 dollars, each was in a separate plastic bag.”
Al Jazeera also obtained photographs of the $11 million cash transaction between Nusra and Italy in 2015.
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