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Fiat heir ‘faked kidnap after going on a drugs bender with an escort’

Police suspect ElKann faked the kidnap to squeeze money out of his family for drugs

Gulf News

Rome: One of Italy’s most celebrated playboys has been arrested in New York after allegedly faking his own kidnapping following a two-day drugs and alcohol bender with an escort.

Lapo Elkann, an heir to Italy’s Fiat empire, is suspected of faking the kidnap to squeeze money out of his family after he ran out of cash to buy drugs. The 39-year-old grandson of Gianni Agnelli, the celebrated patriarch of one of Italy’s richest families, was charged with falsely reporting an incident.

A New York police spokesman said Elkann had been released and the case would be dealt with in court.

Neither Elkann’s publicist nor the Agnelli family’s investment holding, Exor, wished to comment.

Elkann is alleged to have called his family at the weekend, claiming he was being held against his will by someone who would harm him if he did not pay her $10,000, reported US media.

He had flown to New York last Thursday for Thanksgiving and reportedly went to the escort’s apartment in Manhattan, where the pair snorted cocaine and smoked marijuana for two days. He ran out of cash and became indebted to the escort after buying more drugs.

A representative of the family arranged to deliver the money but also informed police who arrested the pair. The playboy nearly died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine in 2005 after collapsing in the Turin apartment of a 53-year-old who went by the street name of “Patrizia”.

Handsome, articulate and multilingual, he became a staple of gossip magazines, particularly when he went out with an Italian starlet who appeared in Ocean’s Twelve with George Clooney.

In recent years, Elkann created a fashion brand called Italia Independent, an advertising agency, Independent Ideas, and Garage Italia Customs, which customises luxury cars, private planes and boats.

Shares in Italia Independent lost seven per cent of their value yesterday.

“People would laugh if I say I started from ground zero, but the reality is I started my companies from scratch,” he told Vanity Fair earlier this year. “Even though you come from a family who has a humongous heritage, has everything, you need to think like someone who is poor.’”

In a social media post earlier this month, Elkann said he would vote in favour of the constitutional reforms put forward by Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, in this Sunday’s referendum. Yesterday, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, a right-wing party opposed to the reforms, wrote on Facebook: “Lapo Elkann says he’ll vote Yes in the referendum — that’s as long as they release the poor guy and let him return to Italy in time.”

— The Telegraph Group Ltd., London, 2016