The French commandos swoop into action, shooting dead the kidnappers and bundling the hostages into a helicopter. But the smiles of the former captives fade as their liberators deliver a nasty shock: the bill.
That could be the scene after Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Minister, introduced a law enabling officials to take legal action against kidnap victims deemed to have ignored official advice against travelling to dangerous places.
God I love the French. Such a sensible, practical race.
The controversy echoes the row in Britain after the the SAS rescued Norman Kember, the peace activist held in Iraq, in 2006. When he initially omitted to thank publicly the SAS, who had freed him and two Canadian hostages, army officers queued up to criticised his apparent ingratitude.
Diplomats said that the cost of operations, often involving navy vessels, air force helicopters, commandos, secret service agents and covert deals with corrupt officials and kidnappers, could run to millions of euros.
Under the legislation, submitted to the Cabinet this month, the State will be entitled to recover “all or part of the expenses … for rescue operations abroad for people who have deliberately exposed themselves to risks which they could not ignore”.
See? All nations could benefit!