Kidnapped South African boy found alive

13-year-old was ransomed for $120k in bitcoins

By STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN
South Africa Police Handout

Katlego Marite, 13, was kidnapped in South Africa and held for ransom on May 20, 2018. He was found alive less than a week later.

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) - The South African teenager who was kidnapped by unknown men demanding a $120,000 ransom in bitcoins has been found alive, police say.

Katlego Marite, 13, was taken by three men in a car as he played with two friends near his home in the eastern province of Mpumalanga on Sunday.

Police spokesman Brigadier Leonard Hlathi confirmed to CNN that Marite had been found but declined to comment further on the circumstances.

"The combined efforts by the police and the community paid off when Marite was found safe and sound. The circumstances under which he was found are a subject of investigation," Hlathi said.

The police spokesman also declined to comment on whether the bitcoin ransom demanded by the kidnappers was paid.

The men had demanded 15 bitcoins, which is roughly equivalent to $120,000 in cash.

In the ransom note, the kidnappers asked the boy's parents to pay "One bitcoin by May 21 and the full amount by May 27." The boy's family told police they didn't know what bitcoins were.

Bitcoin is a new currency that is not tied to any country or subject to regulation. Bitcoins are traded on exchanges and stored in virtual bank accounts called digital wallets.

The ransom note also included information about a wallet to which to send the payment.

In December, kidnappers in Ukraine received a ransom worth more than one million in bitcoins for releasing their victim -- an employee of a British cryptocurrency exchange, according to a report from Reuters news agency.

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