The lawyer of one of the alleged kidnappers of British model Chloe Ayling has claimed the entire case is a ‘sham’ invented as a ‘publicity stunt’.
The 20-year-old model is said to have been snatched by a group calling itself Black Death after being lured to a fake modelling shoot in Milan in July.
Lukasz Herba, 30, is in custody in Italy, having been arrested after delivering Ms Ayling to the British Embassy on July 17 – six days after she was allegedly kidnapped. He has said he did not knowingly take part in any crime.
His 36-year-old brother, Michal Herba, was arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Italian authorities last month.
He appeared in custody at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday to fight extradition, having been in custody since he was apprehended in the Tividale area of Sandwell in the West Midlands.
Prosecutor Florence Iveson said Herba has been requested by the court of Milan in relation to a single offence of kidnapping arising from events between July 11 and 17.
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‘The allegation is that Mr Herba acted in complicity with his brother, Lukasz Herba, and other unidentified persons to kidnap the victim in Milan,’ she said.
‘It is said she was drugged and kidnapped and a 300,000 euro ransom was demanded.’
But Herba’s lawyer, George Hepburne Scott, raised questions over the account given by Ms Ayling, of Coulsdon, south London, who claims she was drugged and bundled into the boot of a car after being tricked into attending the bogus photoshoot in Milan on July 11.
‘There is a real risk that the entire case is a sham,’ he said.
Referring to ‘open source material’, Mr Scott said: “The same complainant, it seems, generated publicity from the fact she was nearby the scene of a terrorist attack at the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
‘Prior to the release of the complainant, the kidnapper apparently issued a press release to a tabloid newspaper setting out that this lady was being held for auction.’
The lawyer also pointed to an alleged incident during which Ms Ayling and her captor went shopping for shoes, calling it a ‘wholly anomalous feature of a hostage situation’.
She also went to breakfast with the kidnapper before her release when the pair found the British consulate was closed, Mr Scott added.
‘It would amount to an abuse of process of the court if there was any evidence to suggest this was a publicity stunt,’ he told the judge.
‘This case has a unique set of anomalies which might lead to the conclusion that the Italian authorities have been duped and that their process has been abused.’
District Judge Paul Goldspring pointed out much of the material relied on by Mr Scott came from press reports, which he said did not prove any of the theories in the case. He will give his ruling on Friday.
During the hearing, Herba, wearing a blue sweater and mauve tracksuit bottoms, limped to the witness box to be questioned over claims that he has a heavily pregnant girlfriend in the UK.
His lawyers argue that any extradition could breach his Article 6 human right to a family life, but Herba refused to name the woman, citing his fear that she would be harassed by journalists.
Mr Scott also said there was a lack of ‘particularity’ in the allegations against his client, which refer to a ‘strong body of evidence’, including DNA samples, statements from the victim, and telephone wire taps.
He said the prosecution case does not set out whether his client was one of the men alleged to have drugged and kidnapped Ms Ayling, or if he is said to have hired the car and the farmhouse used in the alleged offence.