Lawyers in Italy have called for Chloe Ayling, the victim of kidnappers who wanted to sell her on the darkweb, to testify against one of her suspected kidnappers at an upcoming hearing in Milan. The defendant’s legal team has pointed to several inaccuracies in the victim’s story and hopes that questioning her in court will help clear their client’s name.
Ayling, 21, caught the media’s attention last year after she revealed that multiple men from a human trafficking group had kidnapped her in Milan, Italy, after luring her to Italy for a fake modeling gig. The human traffickers, she said, had called themselves the “Black Death Group”. According to statements she gave to the police after one week in captivity, the so-called “Black Death Group” had operatives spread across the globe who kidnapped women to auction them to bidders through a secret darkweb platform. Her story was, one of the defense attorneys claimed, “not adding up.”
The testimony she gave Italian police read like a poorly written thriller. Her facts changed throughout a police interview. Evidence uncovered later in the investigation added weight to the possibility that the entire kidnapping had been a planned publicity stunt. Perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence that made her story more questionable was something about the group she claimed had kidnapped her: the group was as real as the murder-for-hire sites on the darkweb. Meaning, for those unaware that murder-for-hire sites are scams, the “Black Death Group” was effectively non-existent. It amounted to nothing more than a static website with ominous branding; the occasional shill on Reddit; and a Europol report stating that no evidence existed that a criminal organization under that name had been kidnapping people to auction on the darkweb.
Even though one of the kidnappers had claimed that Ayling had planned the “Black Death Group” ordeal for publicity, the court found that the validity of the group made no difference; the kidnappers themselves had convinced Ayling that the group had hired them to kidnap Ayling to sell to “rich men” through the darkweb. And the 21-year-old had no idea that the kidnappers had fictionalized their entire background. In reality, according prosecutors in Milan, the kidnappers had simply kidnapped Ayling in an attempt to extort her supposedly wealthy friends. Hours after Ayling had showed up at the location where the kidnappers had told her to meet them, the convicted kidnapper—Lucasz Herba, 30—started emailing Ayling’s friends and acquaintances and requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars for Ayling’s safe return.
Ayling was not required to testify at Lucasz Herba’s trial. She had no desire to face her kidnapper and Herba admitted kidnapping the model nearly a dozen times before claiming that he had planned the “kidnapping” with Ayling in an attempt to further her career. A court in Milan found Lucasz Herba guilty earlier this year. Ayling accused the man’s older brother, Michal Herba, 36, of helping orchestrate the kidnapping and ransom. After Michal’s arrest and extradition to Italy, his lawyers launched a similar “publicity stunt” defense. ”We want to know exactly how much money she has made since this alleged kidnapping took place,” the defense attorney Simone Zancani told The Sun. “There are a lot of things that don’t square and we want to question her properly in court.”
The attorney said that he wanted to “properly cross-examine” Ayling in court and that the defense needed to find out how much money she earned since the kidnapping. He said he had contacted Ayling personally, her former agent, other modeling agency managers, and the author of a book about the kidnapping. “We will be asking her about the drugs she said she was injected with and provide evidence suggesting it wasn’t a one [time use] and [show in fact that she] was a regular user,” he said.
Meanwhile, the attorney who defended Ayling in the case against Lucasz Herba has announced that he will be taking legal action against his former client since she has repeatedly refused to pay him the £9,000 owed for legal representation. The lawyer added that Lucasz would be appealing the conviction soon and that he had a good chance to win such an appeal.