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The three teenagers and their friend who planned a kidnapping hoax last week may escape tough penalties under the new kidnapping act, says an attorney looking into the interest of one of the juveniles.
Under the law, anyone found guilty of kidnapping for ransom will receive no less than 15 years in prison and a $10M fine. It also imposes the duty on a person who knows of an offence to inform the police about it. If that person knowingly receives or disposes of any proceeds from a ransom, he will be guilty of an offence.
The teens, ages 16, 17 and 18, together with their 20-year-old accomplice, were still in police custody last night. Three of them were arrested on Wednesday, one day after the police received a report that the 17 year-old had been kidnapped. The teenager was found hiding under a bed in a house on the Lamaha railway embankment.
However, later that day, information revealed that the teen had not been kidnapped, but was the mastermind of the plot to extort $1M from his Trinidadian-born father. Stabroek News understands that after the boy's father learnt of his involvement, he handed the teen over to the police.
"When he [the father] was there [at the police station] and saw how the police were treating these people... he too said some things, then he realised that this boy has done a very wrong thing and it affected his conscience," the lawyer stated.
The 17-year-old, a sixth form student of Saint Stanislaus College, had initially told his friends that he wanted the money to return to his mother in Trinidad because his father and stepmother were ill-treating him.
But the attorney said the child had no grounds for such a claim, since any time he needed to return to Trinidad, his father would have arranged the trip. He added that he was considering getting psychiatric help for the boy in the light of his behaviour.
According to the lawyer, the man and his son had returned to Trinidad to live, but the boy insisted that he preferred to live in Guyana. The man reportedly separated from his first wife when the child was two years old and had had custody of him ever since. He subsequently married a Guyanese lawyer.
The four young men are likely to appear in a Georgetown Magistrate's Court tomorrow to answer charges of some form of conspiracy. The lawyer said they could not face charges under the kidnapping act, since it was not a kidnapping.
Under the law, which was passed during the latter half of this year as a deterrent to the kidnappings during the crime spree, a person who holds another for ransom, abducts or wrongfully restrains that person or confines that person, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of $10M together with imprisonment of not less than 15 years and not more than 20 years.
Additionally, "whoever receives, has possession of or disposes of any money or property or any proceeds thereof, which has at any time been delivered as ransom in any offence punishable under section 9, knowing that the money or other property has at any time been delivered as such ransom, shall be guilty of an offence." Upon conviction, that person is liable to a fine equivalent to the ransom delivered or to $7M, whichever is greater, together with imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.