Abu Sayyaf angry not all ransom money went to them

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MANILA: Abu Sayyaf militants are reported to be angry that some of the money collected from families and friends of four Malaysian sailors abducted in April this year did not reach them.

They are said to be upset because although those handling the ransom money had raised P130 million (RM12 million), only P100 million was given to the kidnappers.

The Manila Times reported that the missing amount raised suspicion that the rebels might be in cahoots with government officials from Malaysia and the Philippines who may have shared the money among themselves.

The report, quoting “two highly placed senior Philippine government officials”, said the payment of ransom was confirmed by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The New Straits Times had reported Zahid as saying that the RM12 million raised by the victims’s families had been handed over to the Special Branch and that this money was then channelled to several legal non-governmental organisations in the Philippines. He said the money was not paid as ransom. However, Malaysian police later denied being involved in any ransom payment.

Subsequent to the payment, brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Teck Chii, 29; their cousin Johnny, 21; and co-worker Wong Hung Sing, 34 were released.

The four, crew of a tugboat, were abducted off Sabah on April 1 by a group of armed men on a speedboat. They were released in Jolo, Sulu, on June 7 after long-drawn negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf militants led by sub-commander Apo Mike.

“We got information that the Abu Sayyaf group was incensed after learning from news reports that the money was actually RM12 million, equivalent to P130 million but that only P100 million reached them,” one of the senior officials, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told The Manila Times.

“The question is, where did the missing money go?” the source asked.

The report said there were rumours that the money went through the Special Branch of the Malaysian police who passed it to local officials in Sulu before it reached the Abu Sayyaf group.

“From what we gathered, a local government official in Sulu was involved in the negotiations. It is common knowledge in Malaysia that usually P30 million is paid as ransom for any number of Malaysian victims in the past. The P130 million by far is the highest,” the report quoted another source as saying.

According to The Manila Times source, there is credence to allegations by Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin that some local officials, probably including the military, may have colluded with the Abu Sayyaf group which recently beheaded Canadian Robert Hall.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreign and local hostages, including Hall’s girlfriend Maritess Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.