Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kidnapped couple sold by pirates

Kidnapped couple sold by pirates
February 23 2012 at 08:07am
By Leanne Jansen


File Photo: Durban sailors Bruno Pelizzari and his girlfriend Deborah Calitz were photographed sailing off Tanzania in 2009.

Durban couple Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz were sold by their pirate captors to members of militant group Al Shabaab and then on to Somali “business people”, but Gift of the Givers is optimistic that when money again changes hands for the two, it will be for their safe return home.

Having negotiated the ransom for the couple down from $4 million (R32m) to under $1m (R8m), the Pietermaritzburg-based aid organisation believes that this could happen “soon”.

Pelizzari and Calitz were kidnapped more than a year ago when Somali pirates seized the yacht Choizil off the Tanzanian coast.

The organisation’s founder Imtiaz Sooliman believes that dealing directly with the group now holding Pelizzari and Calitz had played a part in reducing the ransom.

“They were sold twice. First the pirates had them, then Al Shabaab, and now business people,” he said.

Sooliman believes that the couple were sold by the first two sets of captors to recover the money spent on sheltering, clothing and feeding the hostages when it became apparent that their families were not rich and that the SA government was not going to pay the ransom.

Pelizzari’s sister, Vera Hecht, has campaigned tirelessly to raise funds for the ransom. She created a website documenting her appeal so that the pirates could track her efforts.

“They somehow got the impression that Vera is wealthy. We told them they’ll wait until the end of the world (for $4m),” Sooliman said.

He said his contact had seen both Pelizzari and Calitz.

Although Gift of the Givers was handling the negotiations, it was up to the couple’s families to raise the ransom. - The Mercury

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