17:10 GMT11 April 2021
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    What was supposed to be a lucrative business deal disguised as a kidnapping ended up with two men being taken hostage for three years by militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham*. Ironically, one of the terrorists' hostages, Italian businessman Alessandro Sandrini, was reportedly accused of fraud and faking a crime.

    Police in Italy have arrested three men for orchestrating the abduction of two Italians who were held captive in Syria for three years, Sputnik Italy reported on Tuesday.

    Back in 2016, the three apprehended -  two Albanians residing in the northern province of Brescia, Frrokaj Fredi, 43, and Mitraj Olsi, 41, and an Italian citizen, Alberto Zanini, 54, - had persuaded local businessmen Alessandro Sandrini and Sergio Zanotti to fly to Turkey as a quid pro quo.

    Sandrini was allegedly allured by the offer of faking his kidnapping and, as a result, earning ransom money while in Turkey, while Zanotti was reportedly seduced by a business deal involving Iraqi currency.

    After arriving in Turkey, both businessmen were allegedly "sold" to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham - militants that are now operating largely in Syria's province of Idlib. The three criminals reportedly had accomplices in Turkey who carried out the abduction and handed the two Italians over to terrorists.

    Sandrini was taken hostage in October 2016 and was freed in May of 2019.

    Zanotti departed Italy in April 2016 and was incarcerated until April 2019, returning back home through diplomatic action. 

    According to local media reports, Sandrini is now being charged with fraud and staging a crime as part of the same investigation that led to the arrests. There is no information if charges are also being pressed against the other hostage.

    According to Italian media, a third businessman was approached about heading to Turkey as well, but backed out at the last minute, refusing to board his plane.

    *Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other states.

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    kidnapping, jihadists, police, police, Italy
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