September 29, 2017 / 2:04 PM / a year ago

UK court agrees to extradite suspect in Italy model kidnap plot

LONDON (Reuters) - A Polish 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 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 ... is not an abuse of process,” Goldspring said.

In court documents, Herba denied any involvement, saying Ayling was an “attention seeker”. His lawyer George Hepburne Scott has said the case is a sham and there was no evidence against his client, who would appeal against the ruling.

The main suspect in the case is Herba’s brother Lukasz, 30, who was arrested by Italian police in August. British police arrested Michal in an apartment he shared with his brother 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 (264,766.61 pounds).

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 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 told the extradition hearing on Monday there was reason to suspect it was a publicity stunt and there was a “unique set” of anomalies which “may lead to the conclusion that the Italian authorities have been duped”.

In a written statement to the court released to media on Friday, Herba said he had met his brother in Milan on July 10 and had only found out about the kidnapping later from newspapers.

“I also met Chloe Ayling who was free, chilled and relaxed,” the statement said. “She seemed like an attention seeker.”

Hepburne Scott said Herba would launch an appeal on Monday at London’s High Court.

“The world has become fascinated with the riddle and mystery of this case,” he said. “To many it is an enigma; to Michael Herba it is simply a nightmare.”

Writing by Michael Holden; editing by John Stonestreet

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