Three held in Italy over kidnapping of men held in Syria for three years

Three Italian men have been arrested for masterminding the kidnapping of two businessmen who were held captive in Syria for three years.

Over the course of 2016, the three who were arrested – all from the northern Brescia province – had convinced the two businessmen from the area to travel to Turkey.

One of the two, Alessandro Sandrini, was convinced to go with the offer of faking his own kidnapping during the trip, and earn ransom money.

The other businessman, Sergio Zanotti, made the journey after being promised a business deal involving Iraqi currency.

Once in Turkey, both businessmen were captured for real near the Syrian border and taken to Syria, where they were held captive by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group.

According to a police statement, the three men who were arrested had associates in Turkey who carried out the kidnapping and handed the two Italians over to the jihadists.

Zanotti left Italy in April 2016 and remained a prisoner until April 2019. Sandrini arrived in Turkey in October 2016 and was freed in May 2019.

Media reports, which quoted investigative sources, said Sandrini was charged with fraud and simulating a crime, as part of the same inquiry that led to Tuesday’s arrests.

Police said a third businessman was approached about making the trip to Turkey but pulled out at the last minute, refusing to board his plane.

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