Government has denied reports that it paid a ransom of 3.5 million Euros for the release of Stephen McGowan, who was taken hostage by al-Qaeda in Mali in 2011, TimesLive reported on Friday. In July, al-Qaeda released a video showing that McGowan was still alive, News24 reported.
According to eNCA, International Relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane confirmed that McGowan was released on Saturday. She said McGowan was well and that he was undergoing medical check-ups. Government said it had not paid a ransom for its release, saying this was against its policies.
But The New York Times reported on Thursday that, according to a retired European intelligence official who requested to remain anonymous, 3.5 million Euros was paid for his release. The ransom was reportedly negotiated through Gift of the Givers, and transferred through an undercover agent working for French security services.
But a spokesperson for the department of international relations, Clayson Monyela, remained steadfast that government did not pay a ransom for his release.
"It took us about five years and eight months for him to be released through long discussions and negotiations‚ we didn't pay money," Monyela told TimesLive.
"Obviously‚ the government thanked Mali‚ the African Union and the various NGOs that supported this process and other role players as this wasn't an effort by a single individual‚ it was a collaborative effort by many players. We don't have a policy of responding to anonymous people. What was said by the minister represents the government's position on this."