Hyman Belzberg, one of Canada's wealthiest men, was freed...


CALGARY -- Hyman Belzberg, one of Canada's wealthiest men, was freed unharmed by his kidnappers Friday and flew to Vancouver to visit with family members.

Police arrested three male suspects who appeared in provincial court to answer charges related to kidnapping.


Belzberg, 58, whose family's corporate assets run into the billions, was freed less than 24 hours after he was seized at gunpoint Thursday near his furniture store and spirited away in a 1977 customized Chevrolet van.

Shortly after his release, Belzberg returned to his 42-acre estate and called Cristy's Arcade Furniture Ltd., a family-run store, to say he wouldn't be putting in his usual 12-hour work day.

In Vancouver late Friday, Samuel Belzberg's wife Francis confirmed that Hyman had arrived at their residence after a flight from Calgary.

'We're delighted that Hyman's safe,' Mrs. Belzberg said. 'We are all delighted. It's been a trauma for everyone involved.'


Mrs. Belzberg said her brother-in-law was in good spirits and was 'just visiting his family.'

She would not say what Belzberg's plans were or how long he intended to remain in Vancouver.

Aaron Raber, 35, and Gregory Wayne Hedch, 20, both of Edmonton and Michael B. Nobleman, 23, of Calgary appeared in provincial court to answer charges related to the kidnapping. All three were charged with kidnapping, use of a firearm to commit kidnapping, extortion, conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to commit extortion.

The men, who were being held in the Calgary Remand Center, were scheduled to appear in court next week. Crown prosecutor Peter Martin said he would move to have bail denied.

Supt. Al Menzies, who headed the investigation and has known Belzberg since they attended school together 45 years ago, said one suspect was arrested on a street near a shopping center where the financier was released.

The two others were arrested at the kidnap hideout. 'They were asked to come out and they did,' Menzies said, adding that no deal had been made for Belzberg's release.

'There was no physical harm to anyone, either the culprits, Mr. Belzberg or the police,' Menzies said.

He said the abductors made no contact with the family until late Thursday when a Calgary lawyer, whose identity was not disclosed, notified the family he had been telephoned with a ransom demand.


Subsequently, the kidnappers telephoned the family several times 'from various locations,' he said, and family members bargained over the next hours for Belzberg's safe release. While authorities did not disclose full details leading to Belzberg's release, Supt. Phillip Crosby-Jones said a telephone trace led police to the private home in a rundown section of the city where the financier was being held captive.

'It's over. It's been successfully concluded. Hyman Belzberg is with his family,' Crosby-Jones announced about 10:30 a.m. EST. 'He is well and there are three persons in custody.'

Crosby-Jones would not disclose how much ransom was demanded, but said 'no money changed hands.'

The gray-haired, athletic Belzberg was seized by three masked men on the and forced at gunpoint into the stolen van, which was found four hours later about three blocks away.

Furniture store driver Woody Woodcock said he witnessed the abduction but was threatened when he tried to help his boss.

'He hollered to me, 'help me, Woody, help me,'' Woodcock said. 'So I walk up to the van and I was two or three feet away from one guy and he pointed a gun at me and said, 'back off, boy.'

'I backed off -- there was nothing I could do. I tried following them in the van but I lost them in traffic.'


Belzberg and his brothers, Samuel and William, control First City Financial Corp. Ltd. -- with assets of $2.2 billion -- First City Trust Corp. and numerous real estate and development companies across North America.

The family made front page news in the United States a few years ago when it attempted unsuccessfully to gain control of Bache Group, a leading Wall Street brokerage firm, but made an estimated $40 million on the deal.

William Belzberg moved to Los Angeles in 1976 to handle the family's U.S. interests and Samuel, the most prominent brother and a friend of financier Nelson Skalbania, handles the family's Canadian operations in Vancouver.

The Belzberg family emigrated from Poland in 1919. Belzberg's father, Abraham, worked on a farm before launching the used furniture business that provided the capital for successful investments in real estate in Alberta and British Columbia in the 1950s.

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