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Oman ‘paid $50m ransom for three Europeans’

Austrian media speculate on deal that secured release of trio from Yemeni captors

Gulf News

Muscat: Oman paid about $50 million (Dh183.63 million) in ransom last week to secure the release of three Europeans who had spent months in the captivity of their Yemeni kidnappers, according to reports in Austrian media on Monday.

According to a report in the Austrian Independent newspaper’s website, Oman paid a ransom of $16 million for the release of 26-year-old Austrian national Dominik Neubauer. The report, quoting Yemeni newspapers, said that tribal leaders who worked as intermediaries were paid $4 million.

The paper reported that the news agency AFP had confirmed the figures. “Apparently, $50 million were paid for all three hostages,” the report claimed.

According to media reports in Yemen, the kidnappers had earlier tried in vain to blackmail the government of Yemen.

Neubauer, who spent 139 days in captivity, is now recovering with relatives in Vienna, the Austrian Independent reported.

The paper said that a debate is under way in Austria on whether Neubauer must share responsibility in the financial agreement involved in his liberation. The Austrian foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, stressed that the Foreign Ministry would examine whether it could pass on any costs to Neubauer considering the significant sum of money involved.

Under the provisions of the Austrian law, the state can demand up to €50,000 (Dh238,468) from victims of hostage situations. This approach is adopted only if the victim placed himself in a dangerous situation through gross negligence, the website said. The victim is required to pay less if he was exposed to “severe mental stress”.

Finish couple, Atte Kaleva and Layla Kaleva, were held hostage with Neubauer and released last week along with the Austrian. The trio first arrived in Muscat after they were released by their captors before they flew out to their home countries.