‘Abducted’ Basque rockers unharmed after virtual Mexico City kidnapping

Indie band members became hotel hostages after threatening phone calls

The four members of the indie rock group Delorean seen in a publicity still.
The four members of the indie rock group Delorean seen in a publicity still.

Members of the Spanish indie rock group Delorean were reported safe in Mexico City on Tuesday after they became victims of a so-called “virtual kidnapping” scheme, which led them and their families to believe their lives were in danger, according to police sources.

The four members of the Basque group were scheduled to continue their North American tour, with a concert in Seattle later Wednesday.

According to initial reports from Spanish authorities, the “kidnappers” made phone calls to the group’s families back home, demanding a five-million-peso ransom (about 320,000 euros). The band members, all originally from Zarautz, Gipuzkoa province, had traveled to Mexico City to participate in the annual Mutek music festival, which is held at different cities each year and will take place in Barcelona in 2014.

Basque police officials from the Ertzaintza in Zarautz were alerted early Monday morning about the possible kidnappings when the families of group members Ekhi Lopetegui, Igor Escudero Lopetegui and Unai Lazcano Muro reported they had been receiving phone calls from different numbers in Mexico. The father of the group’s fourth member, Guillermo Astrain Guerrero, filed a similar complaint with authorities in San Sebastián.

The callers claimed to have taken the band and threatened to torture and kill them if they weren’t paid five million pesos.

At first, we thought we had a much more complicated kidnapping on our hands”

According to the families, three of the group members were visiting tourist spots around the capital over the weekend before they were scheduled to fly to San Francisco to begin their US tour. Astrain received a phone call from a person identifying himself as a member of the Zetas drug gang and advising him to go to another hotel nearby because there was going to be a shootout at the one in which they were staying. The other musicians, who didn’t have time to react, were told to go to a third hotel. They were also ordered to withdraw money from cash machines and purchase telephones with local numbers so that they could stay in contact with the kidnappers. The criminals told them to destroy their Spanish cellphones to keep them from contacting anyone abroad.

From then on, the four were bombarded with terrifying calls warning them they could be killed at any time if they didn’t follow instructions. Despite being scared out of their wits, none of the four actually saw anyone threaten them, according to Spanish police who are helping in the investigation. But the band believed they had been kidnapped and were being held hostage.

The Ertzaintza and Spain’s national police were able to trace the calls to the hotel where they were being held and free the “hostages” who after 48 hours of fear were safe but still awaiting more instructions from their “kidnappers.”

“At first, we thought we had a kidnapping on our hands that was much more complicated and difficult,” said Gervasio Gabirondo, Ertzaintza director told EL PAÍS. He explained that these “virtual kidnappers” use fear and baseless threats to terrorize their victims into thinking they are being held hostage.

Delorean ended up canceling their San Francisco concert. The group, which came together in 2000 when the four were still teenagers, have just released the album Apar.

In another case, authorities announced on Tuesday that they had arrested 13 Mexican federal police officers on suspicion of being part of a dangerous kidnapping ring in Acapulco.

Federal security spokesman Eduardo Sánchez Hernández said the 13 arrested last Friday had taken part in at least seven murders and four kidnappings. Five other civilians, including one woman, are suspected of also being involved in the gang’s crimes.

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