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Kidnappers release multimillionaire's daughter

Kidnappers released a Dutch multimillionaire’s daughter unharmed, but it was unclear if any ransom was paid to the abductors, who had demanded 660 pounds of cocaine.
Armed men broke into an upscale Amsterdam home and kidnapped Claudia Melchers, 37, the daughter of multimillionaire Hans Melchers, but released her unharmed two days later.AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Kidnappers released a Dutch multimillionaire’s daughter unharmed, but it was unclear if any ransom was paid to the abductors, who had demanded 660 pounds of cocaine, police said Thursday.

Claudia Melchers, 37, walked barefoot into a train station in the town of Arnhem on Wednesday night. Her appearance came 48 hours after two armed men gained entry into her Amsterdam apartment, bound her, bundled her into a plastic crate and loaded her into a vehicle.

“We don’t know why she was released,” said police Commissioner Willem Woelders.

He said as far as police know, no ransom was paid and the family didn’t have any contact with the kidnappers.

Her father, Hans Melchers, is one of the richest men in the Netherlands, with a personal fortune estimated at $650 million.

Woelders said police did not know why the kidnappers demanded cocaine, or whether such a delivery could have been arranged on such short notice.

“That’s a tough question for a policeman because it is not my daily business. ... The quantity is very large and you would need to have the right contacts to do it quickly. I think it is unlikely.”

The kidnapping came a month after customs authorities seized 10,000 pounds of cocaine in the Port of Rotterdam, in one of the largest drug busts by Dutch authorities. It was not clear if there was a connection with the kidnappers.

Woelders said that Claudia Melchers told police she was held in an empty room of a house, got clothes and food, and was allowed to bathe. She said she saw three men, two who appeared to be Latin Americans and one who was black.

Disoriented with minor cuts
She was disoriented after her release, with minor cuts on her wrists where she was bound, but otherwise unharmed, Woelders said.

In the assault on Melchers’ home in the Old South section of Amsterdam on Monday, the gunmen bound and gagged a friend but left Melchers’ two young children unharmed.

Melchers heard German and eastern Dutch dialects spoken on a radio, Woelders said, implying she was held in or near Germany. But the kidnappers spoke English and the ransom note was written in English.

Police assigned a 60-member team to investigate the case, but had no idea where the woman was until she appeared in Arnhem, 68 miles east of Amsterdam, near the German border.

Hans Melchers is owner of Melchemie Holland BV, which had supplied chemicals to Iraq in the 1980s and was once fined for a shipment of banned chemicals, which it called a “one-time mistake.”

Melchers’ ex-wife, Anna Maria Lievens, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of her home in Malta in 1999, reportedly after a fall. Dutch media said Lievens had contacted Dutch financial authorities alleging her husband’s company sold chemicals to Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Although kidnappings are rare in the Netherlands, they have happened often enough for Quote magazine to come under criticism for publishing its annual list of the country’s wealthiest citizens. Melchers is No. 36 on the list.

The most famous case was the abduction of beer tycoon Freddie Heineken in 1983, with kidnappers paid $10 million. The two kidnappers were released after lengthy prison terms, and one was killed in 2003 in a gangland-style shooting.