December 16, 2008 in Nation/World

Anti-kidnapping expert abducted in Mexico

By MARK STEVENSON Associated Press
 

MEXICO CITY – A U.S. anti-kidnapping expert was abducted by gunmen in northern Mexico last week, a sign of just how bold this nation’s kidnapping gangs have become.

U.S. security consultant Felix Batista – who claims to have helped resolve nearly 100 kidnap and ransom cases – was in Saltillo in Coahuila state to offer advice on how to confront abductions for ransom when he himself was seized, local authorities said.

Unknown assailants grabbed him on Wednesday, said Charlie LeBlanc, the president of the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC, where Batista is a consultant.

“We have notified the FBI and Mexican authorities, and they are working on the case,” LeBlanc said Monday. “What we are doing is we’re offering our support to the family and hoping for the best.”

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said it would not comment on the case, and LeBlanc declined to say whether a ransom demand had been received.

LeBlanc said Batista had his own security business and that “he was in Mexico for business that wasn’t associated with our company.”

“Part of that could be or may involve negotiations with kidnappers,” Leblanc said. ASI Global’s Web site advertises “kidnap and ransom response” and says the company has worked for major insurance companies.

Batista was frequently cited as an anti-kidnapping expert at conferences and in the press.

Local media reported that Batista was 55 years old, but his age was not included on his professional profile.

A series of high-profile kidnappings in which the victims were later found dead has sparked outrage in Mexico. In the past year, the bodies of the daughter of Mexico’s former sports commissioner and the son of a prominent businessman have been found.

Non-governmental groups claim Mexico has one of the world’s highest kidnapping rates, surpassing Colombia.

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