Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drug offences, kidnap coverage concerning

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Here in Manitoba, as we celebrate the first long weekend of the summer, activities tend to be around good times at cottages, swimming pools and nearby campgrounds.

But for many, the issues relating to travel to foreign countries hijack their more enjoyable thoughts for the weekend.

QUESTION: I am planning to travel to Venezuela for three weeks in June. My son says that I need to buy kidnap insurance, which costs about $1,000 for the three weeks.

I will be arriving in Maracaibo, meeting up with four Venezuelan friends, then we will travel together along the northern beaches, avoiding Caracas. Thereafter, we are going into the interior, to Angel Falls, and finally we will travel back to Maracaibo.

I am a retired teacher, so I don't have a lot of money for either kidnappers or for kidnap insurance. At the same time, there is no doubt that Venezuela is known for violent crime and kidnapping. Do you have any advice for me?

ANSWER: Kidnap and ransom insurance protection is often held by larger corporate entities that send employees to what are known as high-risk countries.

While Canadians tend to travel to their favourite Mexican sunspots over the winter, many parts of Mexico fall into that high-risk category. Likewise, Venezuela has exceptional tourist attractions, yet other areas are known for illegal activity that includes kidnap for ransom.

Known as K&R (kidnap and ransom) insurance, it is a very expensive policy for individuals to purchase.

Interestingly, many of these policies do not directly pay the ransom demanded on behalf of the insured individuals. Often, the individuals or companies must pay the ransom and then be reimbursed by the insuring company.

From the research I unearthed, there would appear to be a paradox in the small print that will make difficulties for an individual such as yourself who want to purchase the coverage on his or her own.

In a corporate environment, the employee is not supposed to be even aware of the coverage, on the basis that they might act differently, to the point of colluding with the kidnappers to get himself or herself free.

Yet the problem around the world is quite severe, with an estimated $500 million annually paid to these groups who have created an industry around the activity in some countries.

Frequent coverage of these events by the media easily underscores that reality.

While most kidnappings do not end in the death of the victim, since the goal is to secure payment and repeat the process, there is a difficult catch-22 that faces the companies and families of kidnap victims.

The kidnappers will insist that no one else be informed of the kidnapping. That includes police and the insurance companies who will end up reimbursing the insurer. However, by not doing so, the insurance company can declare the policy null and void.

If you should proceed with purchasing a policy on your own, you will need to do your homework to find those companies that will keep the policy in force so long as you use "reasonable discretion" in deciding to what extent you want to inform authorities and others who may be part of a solution.

Remember, governments will categorically state they will not negotiate financially with kidnappers, even though there have been suggestions this has happened in some instances, with payment arranged through third parties.

Should you decide to proceed on your own in purchasing this coverage notwithstanding the above, most policies will cover psychiatric expenses, injuries such as mutilation (loss of fingers or ears is not uncommon), rewards to informants for arrest and conviction, and travel expenses to get you back to your home country.

Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at or read Ron's travel blog at


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2013 D4

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