World News

UK court agrees to extradite suspect in Italy model kidnap plot

LONDON (Reuters) - A man accused of being part of a plot to kidnap a British model in Milan should be extradited from Britain to Italy, a London judge ruled on Friday.

Model Chloe Ayling, 20, has told Italian police she was lured to a photo shoot in Milan in July, abducted and held captive for six days. Her lawyer said the plot was to sell the model for sex in an online auction unless a ransom was paid.

In a ruling at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Judge Paul Goldspring said Polish-born Michal Herba, 36, the brother of the model’s alleged kidnapper, should be extradited to face charges in Italy.

“I find that the request is both proportionate and in compliance with your Convention rights and is not an abuse of process. I therefore order your surrender,” Goldspring said.

Herba’s lawyer George Hepburne Scott said there was no evidence against his client, who denied any involvement and would appeal against the ruling.

The main suspect in the case, Herba’s brother Lukasz, 30, was arrested by Italian police in August. British police arrested Michal in central England shortly afterwards.

Florence Iveson, the prosecutor acting on behalf of the Italian authorities, said the two brothers were accused of abducting, kidnapping and detaining Ayling between July 11 and 17 and demanding a ransom of 300,000 euros ($352,000).

Since returning to Britain, Ayling has given a number of media interviews in which she said she was drugged, gagged, bound, stuffed into a bag, put into the boot of a car and driven to a village near Turin in northwest Italy.

She also denied suggestions the kidnapping was a hoax after it was reported she had gone on a shopping trip with her alleged captor.

Herba’s lawyer had told the extradition hearing on Monday that there was reason to suspect the case was a publicity stunt.

“There were a “unique set” of anomalies in the case which “may lead to the conclusion that the Italian authorities have been duped and that their process had been abused”, he said.

After the verdict on Friday, the lawyer said Herba had offered to give evidence to Italian investigators via videolink but this had been rejected.

“This case has attracted unprecedented media attention is being played out in the media across the globe,” Hepburne Scott said. “The world has become fascinated with the riddle and mystery of this case. To many it is an enigma; to Michael Herba it is simply a nightmare.”

Herba has seven days to launch an appeal to London’s High Court.

Reporting by Michael Holden and Estelle Shirbon; editing by John Stonestreet