Two Italian men hatched a scheme to stage their own kidnapping by fake terrorists in hopes of securing ransom money from the Italian Government; only for it to go awry when they were sold to real Jihadists, according to Italian prosecutors.
According to Italian prosecutors, the two men, Alessandro Sandrini and Sergio Zanotti, are suspected of separately faking their own kidnappings with the help of a gang of two Albanian men and another Italian man whom they met in their home town of Brescia, Lombardy.
Prosecutors claim that both the men were taken to Turkey five months apart in 2016 by the same gang. The deal was to split the ransom money which would be paid by the Italian Government after taking the men to a secret location and staging a fake ISIS-style kidnapping video.
Police claims that Sandrini’s girlfriend overheard the kidnapping gang promising to keep Sandrini in a villa filled with “drugs, alcohol, and women”.
Sandrini, who is now under formal police investigation, allegedly informed his girlfriend about the plan and promised her €100,000 if she did not divulge it to the police or the reporters. Prosecutors claim that Sandrini’s girlfriend was being paid €50 a week by the gang to ensure her silence.
An Italian justice system source said that the gang held Sandrini for almost a week before double-crossing him by taking him across the border into Syria and selling him as a hostage to members of the Islamist group Turkistan Islamic Party, one of the many Islamist Jihadist terrorist groups active in the country. “He became a victim of his own game,” the source said.
Sandrini has vehemently denied these allegations, telling a local newspaper that his kidnapping “was a real kidnapping from start to finish”.
The gang behind this kidnapping has now been arrested and is also suspected of attempting to stage the fake kidnapping of Zanotti. Zanotti had earlier claimed that he was kidnapped whilst buying rare coins in Turkey. Zanotti was handed over to another Islamist terror group linked to Al-Qaeda before he was released in 2019, just like Sandrini.
“Sandrini is under investigation and Zanotti will be soon since we strongly suspect he too faked his kidnapping,” the source said.
In a 2018 video depicting Sandrini’s real kidnapping, he was kneeling before his armed kidnappers and pleading for help, otherwise, he would be killed. After his release in May 2019, Sandrini claimed that he was drugged and kidnapped near his hotel during a holiday in Turkey. Upon his return, he was put under house arrest for being a suspect in multiple robberies.
Zanotti has not responded to the allegations so far. He was released in April 2019, with the then PM of Italy Giuseppe Conte saying that Zanotti appeared in good shape and thanked the Italian intelligence service for their “complex and delicate” investigation that secured his release from the terrorists.
An ex-wife of Zanotti told Italian newspaper La Republica that she was shocked to hear about the allegations. “He told us that when he was held prisoner near Aleppo he was forced to eat grass, like a horse,” she said.
The Italian Government has long been suspected of paying ransoms in order to free their citizens held hostage. According to the Italian justice system source, the two men did not earn any money from this failed endeavor. “If anything was paid, they certainly got nothing,” he said.