Michal Konrad Herba, the 36-year-old brother of Lukasz Pawel Herba, who is being held in an Italian jail on kidnapping charges for his role in the alleged abduction of British model Chloe Ayling, has been arrested at his home in the West Midlands in England.
Ayling is a 20-year-old British model who was lured to Italy in July for a fake photo shoot, only to be drugged and stuffed into a suitcase and held captive for nearly a week. Her captors, who claimed to be part of the Black Death trafficking group that operates on the deep web—or dark net—supposedly told her they intended to sell her “to Arabs” for sex. They allegedly let her go when they found out she was the mother of a young child, since women who have given birth are less lucrative on the sinister black market for sex slaves.
Italian authorities had issued a European Arrest Warrant for Michal Herba on the suspicion that he collaborated with the kidnapping. When she was released, Ayling told local police that several men were involved in her capture.
Her lawyer, Francesco Pesce, confirmed to The Daily Beast that the brothers were suspected of working together.
Since her release, Ayling has had to defend herself from the suspicion that she was somehow involved in what some allege was a massive publicity stunt—particularly after reports emerged that she was seen dining and shoe shopping with her captor during her captivity. She also admitted that she slept in the same bed as her captor but did not engage in sexual relations with him. In her statement to Italian police, she says that her captor drugged her throughout her ordeal and that she often woke up in different clothing than she remembered wearing in different locations in the house where she was kept.
Her former agent Philip Green with the agency Supermodel UK told BBC News that his client had since moved on after receiving offers from bigger agencies and around $250,000 in new contracts. He says that “all the checks were done” and that Lukasz Herba seemed legitimate before he confirmed the photo shoot and booked his client's ticket to Milan.
“We would not expose anyone to a situation without fully knowing who the client was,” he told the BBC. “Every check was done with nothing being flagged up for me to think or even suggest there was anything suspicious about him.”
Green received an email from Herba demanding ransom and threatening to sell Ayling online. “It was the first email contact from someone on behalf of the Black Death group telling me chillingly they had taken Chloe,” he said. She was released a few days later and taken by Herba to the British Consulate in Milan.
Italian authorities say they checked out her story and she had no suspicious contact with either of the Herba brothers prior to her kidnapping. Pesce told CNN that she was not an accomplice in any way and that she was threatened and that “people were watching her” and she might be killed if she tried to escape. There is currently no investigation into her involvement by Italian authorities.
Italian police say Lukasz Herba’s defense is that he was trying to raise money for his own leukemia treatment and was contracted by a Romanian gang to find properties in Italy that somehow led to kidnapping the model. Ayling instead says he was the mastermind of the kidnapping and threatened to sell her on the dark web for $300,000. He told her that after her “Arab buyers” tired of her, they would “feed you to the tigers.”
Herba’s brother will appear in a London court on Wednesday.