The alleged kidnapping of British model Chloe Ayling could have been a “sham” or “publicity stunt”, a court has heard.
Chloe, 20, has claimed she was duped into travelling to Milan, Italy for a photoshoot in July, but was instead attacked by two men, drugged, forced into the boot of a car and told she would be sold into the sex trade.
It’s claimed the alleged captors were part of a group called Black Death who threatened to auction her on the dark web and tried to extort a €300,000 ransom from her agent.
She was released to the British Embassy six days later.
Two men have been arrested in connection to the alleged incident: brothers Lukasz Pawel Herba, 30, and Michal Konrad Herba, 30.
Lukasz was arrested in Italy and denied knowingly taking part in any crime.
Michal was taken into police custody in the West Midlands in August and has denied involvement in the alleged kidnap.
An extradition hearing for Michal was held at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Monday, as lawyers argued about a request from Italy to send Michal back.
The prosecution said: “The allegation is that Mr Herba acted in complicity with his brother, Lukasz Herba, and other unidentified persons to kidnap the victim in Milan.
“It is said she was drugged and kidnapped and a €300,000 ransom was demanded.”
But Michal’s lawyer told the court: “There is a real risk that the entire case is a sham.”
George Hepburne Scott pointed to “open source material” in making his argument.
He told the court: “The same complainant, it seems, generated publicity from the fact she was near 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.”
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.
“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.”
Mr Scott gave two examples of what he believed to be “anomalies” with the case: reports that Chloe went shoe shopping with one of her alleged captors and claims she had breakfast with them before arriving at the British Embassy in Milan.
However, the judge in the case pointed out Mr Scott’s examples came from press reports that may not be wholly accurate and did not prove his comments.
“Some believe it to be a sham. This material doesn’t prove that,” said District Judge Paul Goldspring.
The case continues and the judge will give his ruling on Friday.