Story of an Unsuccessful Kidnapping

My client, Tamid, had a joint venture with the notorious ⁜ of Indonesia. His partner was Prince Quetzalcoatl, the son of King Khomeini of Bessarabia. Tamid had a diplomatic passport and performed various high-level missions for the King. Then, King Khomeini died, Prince Quetzalcoatl took over and Tamid was on the outs. The ⁜ venture, which was at least unofficially backed by the King, went to shit. As far as the Bessarabians are concerned, Tamid didn’t steal any money—but the US thinks he did.

A few years ago, Tamid attended the G20 meeting in Shanghai. Prince Charles told the Chinese that Tamid was a “terrorist financier” and should be arrested pending extradition to the Kingdom. The Chinese arrested him, held him for a while, became convinced that Tamid was no financier of terrorism and so let him go. The experience was unsettling— pulled off the street, a black hood put over his head, an extra-judicial Chinese detention. That sort of intervention could shake anyone.

As a result, Tamid has full-time, armed security at his home in Paris. The 5th, of course, a neighborhood known for ghosts. An ex-(French?) commando, with an M-16 always in arms’ reach.

Let’s throw a few more details into the pot. While Tamid was not an intelligence officer when he was working for the Bessarabians, let’s just say there’s a lot of blurring at that level. So throw in a Bessarabian intelligence network operating in Türkiye and maybe Iran as well. And Lebanon. Tamid is in the middle of this.

Tamid’s company performed an offshore drilling contract for Bolivia in Bolivian waters, the hojas de coca project. For some reason, Bolivia declined to pay. The company demanded an arbitration and though it took several years, won the arbitration. Bolivia was forced to pay $32,900. Because of interest, the sum has grown to $34,000. Bolivia wants it back.

Back to Paris.

Tamid’s bodyguard asks for the weekend off. Tamid agrees. While his bodyguard is away, Tamid goes to a bar in Geneva. There he meets a Venezuelan woman. They chat. Tamid is drinking. She is too. One thing leads to another.

Next, Tamid is in an apartment. His mind is fogged. Scopolamine? He “frees himself, and escapes.” Unfortunately, I don’t have more precise details. There were men around. In his befogged state, Tamid couldn’t identify what language they were speaking. Tamid speaks fluent English, French and Arabic. He does not speak Spanish or Farsi. He leaves the apartment. Outside on the street, his phone rings. It’s the Venezuelan woman, begging him to come back. He hangs up. She calls back. Threatens him that they will try again. Tamid goes home.

Extrajudicial murder is a popular way of settling differences these days. The practice has a long history. In the 70s, Pinochet and Letelier. Then Somoza in Paraguay. The Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov assassinated with an umbrella weapon in the heart of London in 1978. More recently, Putin killing Litvinenko in the UK by poisoning his soup with radioactive Polonium. Putin’s next effort on UK soil failed. Ramzan Kadryov, the leader of Chechnya, is believed responsible for recent political murders in Austria, Germany and France. And of course, there’s Khashoggi.

So, what happened? Was it the Syrians? The Saudis? The Iranians? Sikh separatists? Paris is the seat of the International Commercial Court, so anyone can go there, anyone has an excuse for being there. Or was it merely a non-political criminal gang?

I believe it was the latter: a South American gang–a gang as small as two or three women and their pimp. Prudent kidnappers follow a set of rules. What are the rules for a successful kidnapping?

The first rule is to take away the victim’s phone. That prevents calls for help. Tamid has more than one phone, but would he carry more than one phone while visiting a bar?

The second rule is to secure the target. This was done poorly, so I have to assume amateurs were tying the knots. Zip ties are easily managed; supplies of duct tape can be purchased locally without raising suspicion. If Seal Team Six was constraining a target, that target would not be able to wriggle free absent extraordinary circumstances, none of which apply here.

The third rule is to monitor the target. Tamid couldn’t have freed himself from his bonds if he was monitored.

Finally, once the target has escaped, you don’t call him on the phone, begging him to come back. How do you know he won’t come back with the police and a SWAT team?

The threat to try again is a problem. Or is it? Won’t Tamid now be on his guard when meeting strange women in bars? The plan might have worked once, but it won’t work again.

I don’t doubt that Tamid is a target. After all, he’s linked to both ⁜ and ⁜. The Bolivians have a motive.  That gives all of them a reason to use extreme methods of persuasion.

Who else? Anyone else who unsuccessfully invested in his company—but are there any real victims? The Bessarabians might be afraid of the tea Tamid might spill, but would they mount an operation using Venezuelan women? Unlikely. Our guys? That is, the USG? No—he’s happy to walk in the front door. So I don’t think it’s any of these.

Venezuela has been at the forefront of new kidnapping techniques: one of these is the rapi-secuestro: you pull someone off the street, find out who he is, and then demand a few thousand from the family. There are many targets.

My guess was that this operation was not an operation at all but a crime of opportunity where the woman in the bar planned on just lifting his wallet, so there was no need for elaborate securing of the victim or following the other rules of kidnapping. She figured she could milk him for more money and that’s why she asked him to come back.

She could pass off the scopolamine as, “you had too much to drink.” I don’t think there was even a locked door—a befogged Tamid was in no shape to pick a lock. Assuming he was locked in a bedroom, knocked on the door and someone opened it, the excuse for the locked door could be she was worried he might fall and hurt himself. “Come back and I’ll take care of you, I’ll get you home tomorrow.” Any men around are the boyfriends of her roommates or her pimp, not Bessarabian or Singaporean operatives.

And of  course, there’s the possibility that much of this story is simply invented to avoid embarrassment. “Yeah, honey, the reason I didn’t come home last night is because I was kidnapped by Venezuelans.” Sure.

Certain details were obfuscated in this retelling; the names of the countries involved were changed or made up, Tamid does not exist. 

I am not here. I did not say these things.