Police spokesperson, Leonard Hlathi

A criminal gang in South Africa which kidnapped a teenage boy on Sunday is demanding a ransom in bitcoin cryptocurrency of nearly $120,000, police have said.

Police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi said Katlego Marite, 13, was dragged into a car while playing with two friends near his home in Witbank, a town in the eastern province of Mpumalanga on Sunday afternoon.

“They demanded that the family should deposit a sum of 15 bitcoins, not in rands,” he told news channel eNCA.

“(The parents) don’t even know what these bitcoins are. They are not dealing in those things. They are in tatters as we speak.”

Although police in South Africa have reported a recent rise in kidnappings, the ransom demand in cryptocurrency appears to be a first.

In December, kidnappers in Ukraine received a ransom worth more than one million in dollars bitcoins for releasing their victim – an employee of a British cryptocurrency exchange. (Reuters/NAN)