Police ‘keeping public in the dark over rise in street kidnapping torture gangs’

Police are keeping the public in the dark over a coming rise in street kidnappers torturing people into making bank transfers, a security expert has claimed.

ICP chief Will Geddes's alarming warning comes after "sadistic" thugs were caged for 50 years for forcing a student to ring his bank to authorise the transfer of £14,810 into their accounts.

Leeds Crown Court on Friday heard Zakariya Osman, 25, and Harris Saqib, 24, stubbed cigarettes out on the 21-year-old's body, threatening to murder him while force-feeding him booze and drugs during the "chilling" 22-hour ordeal.

Mr Geddes on Monday told the Daily Star the easing of lockdown rules could see the number of similar crimes rocket this year.

The founder of the International Corporate Protection (ICP) Group said: "It's one of those crimes that police won't want to raise awareness of for fear of copy cats.

"Obviously we are going to see an increase in street crime but that's common sense in terms of the fact that there are going to be more people out on the streets.

"This kind of threat does go on and it goes on more regularly than you might imagine, generally because the victim won't really want to publicise it and equally because it's quite an easy crime to perpetrate.

"We are seeing an increase in demand for security and particularly in personal protection as people are beginning to move about a bit more."

Osman and Saqib were jailed for 30 and 20 years respectively after pleading guilty to the 3am kidnap and robbery of the victim after he left a nightclub on October 17, 2019.

Describing how the transfers happened, prosecutor Carmel Pearson said: "Because of the large amount of money he was asked many questions by people at the bank and it was a slow process.

"He was nervous that the bank would sense the tension in his voice on the telephone.

"The whole time he was attacked and forced to persuade the bank of the legitimacy of the transfers."

Mr Geddes said: "It's been going on for ages.

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"He was probably forced to not appear frightened or in duress. However in the same way as with your credit card… what they deem to be suspicious activity on your card – they will call you or put a block on it.

"I think there does need to be always a review of what a bank can do inevitably if there are very unusual transactions.

"They do have checks but they don't always work."

The security expert refused to name the banks which had relatively poor checks but urged the public to set limits on the amounts that can be transferred on mobile banking apps, adding: "It's back to the age-old 'trust your instinct'.

"I think fundamentally people are going to be out a lot more as bars and shops start opening up.

"One of the biggest hindrances is our smartphones – our ability to be distracted by them as we are out and about and the more we are distracted the greater the advantage the enemy has."

West Yorkshire Police and the National Police Chiefs Council have been contacted for comment.

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