The Words of the Ota Family

Paraguay Kidnap Victims Thank Those Who Won Their Release

April 23, 2007
The Japan Times Online

ASUNCION (AP) The two Japanese who survived a kidnapping ordeal that garnered wide attention in their homeland thanked on Saturday those who worked for their safe release.

Hirokazu Ota, a 62-year-old businessman, and his secretary Sawako Yamaguchi, were abducted April 1 in eastern Paraguay. A police officer, Rafael Ramos, and his girlfriend, Nancy Gimenez, also were seized at gunpoint in the area of Caaguazu.

Yamaguchi was freed unharmed after 10 days in captivity, and the others were released Friday near the eastern border city of Ciudad del Este, after a ransom was paid. Police have arrested 11 people but said they believe they are minor accomplices and that the ringleaders fled across the border into Brazil.

Ota, who runs a local agribusiness controlled by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, read a statement before journalists at the Japanese Embassy expressing his "appreciation to the Paraguayan government, to our embassy and the Paraguayan people for their concern during our abduction."

As he began crying, Ota's secretary finished reading his statement. Both appeared in good health.

In Ciudad del Este, 390 km east of Asuncion, police raided several homes Friday, including one where the captives apparently were held, police chief Wenceslao Recalde said. He said they found guns, airline tickets, scattered clothing and scraps from meals.

Authorities also found a car abandoned alongside the Parana River border and suspect the ringleaders used it to escape to Brazil, police investigator Antonio Gammara said.

"We have several leads," Gammara said Saturday, without elaborating.

Alvaro Ramirez, an assistant police chief in Ciudad del Este, said authorities were doing everything possible to find the ringleaders and were working with Brazilian police. He said those arrested so far appeared to have driven cars and taken care of the hideout where the victims were kept.

The chief investigator, Rogelio Ortuzar, said authorities believe at least 25 people were involved in the kidnapping.

Reports differed on how much ransom was paid.

Ortuzar said Friday that $ 138,000 was paid for the last three victims. A Unification Church spokesman, Felipe Paredes, said the ransom totaled $ 300,000.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Tparents Home