Markets in everything, Baghdad corpse kidnap edition

Criminals in Baghdad are stealing corpses from the scenes of car bombings and murders in order to extract "ransoms" from grieving relatives.

In a macabre off-shoot of the capital’s kidnapping epidemic, the gangs pose as medics collecting bodies to be taken back to the city’s overflowing morgues.

Instead, though, they take the corpses to secret hiding places and then demand payments of up to £2,500 a time to release them to relatives for burial. Because Muslim custom dictates that a body must be buried as soon as possible after death, many families simply pay up, rather than involve the police.

The new racket in "dead hostage taking" is thought to be run by gangs connected to the city’s sectarian militias, many of whom are already involved in conventional kidnappings.

Iraqi police said the gangs often responded to car bombings, which can leave more than 100 corpses on the streets. In the chaos, police and army units seldom questioned the credentials of people posing as ambulance crews.

Here is the full story.


As if that wasn't bad enough, it creates a profit motive for car bombings etc., namely the corpse kidnappings for ransom in the aftermath of such a car bombing.


Tyler's Markets in Everything is almost tongue in cheek, and certainly not a "market fundamentalist" paean. Scroll through some of the old ones to get a flavor. He mentioned something about this in his podcast with Russ Roberts - it is worth a listen.


Worst of all, I imagine if you a just "nearly dead" they'll help you along the way to keep up their business.

Bah it is just a result of the lowering of transaction costs. I mean in other countries with less developed economies the inefficiencies in notifying the victim's family, arranging for a drop, and exchanging the goods coupled with the inability to build a positive reputation work against this sort of small scale entrepreneurship.

But in Iraq, a kidnapping gang can be rewarded for following through, and build up an infrastructure of messengers and drop points, perhaps even gaining additional profits through renting out that infrastructure to other gangs, and this dramatically reduces transaction costs. This and a lack of excessive government regulation has opened up vast uncharted market possibilities. The real question is where are they listed and what symbol does the market leader have? I foresee a continuation of the epic growth this sector has been experiencing.

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