An American businessman kidnapped and held for eight months by Columbian terrorists while he was head of a Beatrice Foods Co. subsidiary there has filed suit in federal court in New York asking for $185 million in damages from Beatrice claiming the firm did nothing to free him for eight months.
Gustavo Curtis, 54, headed up Industrias Gran Columbia S.A. in Bogota when he was kidnapped on Sept. 28, 1976 according to his complaint. He claims that after the kidnapping Beatrice told his wife Vera who was a television talk show host there not to take any action to rescue him because the company would handle the matter.
The complaint also states that Curtis was warned by the American embassy in Columbia in July 1976 that his photograph had been found in the possession of known terrorists and that he was a potential kidnap victim.
After notifying the chicago-based conglomerate Curtis claims that his employers said they would take measures to protect him and that he should take no action on his own.
He said that he would have left his job at that time but he couldn't without the firm's permission. He claims that Beatrice did nothing at that time to protect him against the eventual kidnap.
As a result of what Curtis calls "deceit fraud and misrepresentation" on the part of Beatrice he was then kidnapped.
Curtis and his wife, who also is a plaintiff in the case, further claim that Beatrice took no action because the firm believed the kidnapping to be a hoax, perpetrated by Curtis.
According to the complaint, the firm only began to take action toward his release after subjecting his wife to a lie detector test some six months after the kidnapping.
During the incident, Curtis claims he was "confined in cage-like quarters" by his captors.
One of Curtis' attorneys, Leonard Diamond, said that Curtis was constantly watched by teams of three men in masks in a "hollowed-out cave 60 feet under ground.
"He never heard a human voice for eight months," Diamond said.
Although the original ransom demand was $5 billion, the company hired two British terrorist experts to negotiate that figure down to $450,000 at the time of his release on May 18, 1977.
Diamond said that the British negotiators and the Beatrice lawyer in Bogota, were jailed for a time for arranging the ransom payment, because there is a military decree in that country against paying ransom to terrorists.
Curtis' wife Vera was considered a local television star in Columbia, Diamond said. An Israeli, she hosted an advice-to-the-lovelorn talk show.
The Curtis' now live in New York. Diamond says Curtis "is looking for a job," but technically remains on Beatrice's apyroll. His address was with-held from the filing. "The company still wants him to go back to Colombia," Diamond claims. "They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place."
Beatrice attorney Geoffry Kalmust said his company has "no comment on the matter at this time. You can be sure the company will deny the allegations in the complaint atthe proper time," he added.