A French court on Wednesday sentenced an Italian to 18 years in prison for orchestrating the kidnapping of an aging hotel heiress in the French city of Nice.
The 67-year-old Giuseppe Serena was among 13 people tried for the conspiracy against Jacqueline Veyrac, owner of the five-star Grand Hotel in Cannes and the posh restaurant La Reserve on the Mediterranean Sea in Nice.
Prosecutors accused Serena of taking revenge on Veyrac’s 2009 decision to terminate his contract to rent and manage La Reserve, who had run into financial difficulties.
Philip Dutton, a 52-year-old former British soldier who allegedly helped Serena and demanded the € 5 million ransom for her release, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Six other people were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, and five people were acquitted.
Serena, who has been in custody for four years, had denied the charges but appeared to admit his involvement towards the end of the four-week trial.
“Never in my life have I thought of treating Ms. Veyrac like a parcel!” he told the court.
“It wasn’t about hate … and it wasn’t about money. It was probably my frustrated ego,” he said.
Serena denied claims by his co-defendants that he wanted to kidnap Veyrac’s son or even her grandson as part of the program.
Both Serena and Dutton were accused of initially attempting to kidnap Veyrac in 2013.
Investigators were able to reconcile Dutton’s DNA with traces under Veyrac’s nails when she scratched her attackers on the first attempt.
Serena’s attorney Corentin Delobel said his client was likely to appeal a “disproportionate” decision that he called “the equivalent of a death sentence.”
Gagged and reassured
80-year-old Veyrac was kidnapped by two masked men in the street on October 24, 2016 when she was about to get into her SUV and bundled up in the back of a stolen van.
One of the kidnappers threatened to kill her if she made any noise and she was forced to drink a sedative.
She was handcuffed and gagged in the vehicle parked on a quiet street for two days before she was spotted and released by a passerby.
All 13 defendants in the conspiracy were present and Veyrac also appeared in court to testify.
Luc Goursolas, a former paparazzi private investigator accused of attaching a tracking device to Veyrac’s car, was acquitted as an accomplice but sentenced to two years in prison for failing to inform police of the conspiracy once he knew what it was going on.
A year has been suspended, which means Goursolas is not serving time under French criminal law.
The three alleged gang members from a poor neighborhood in Nice who carried out the kidnapping were sentenced to 14 to 15 years in prison.
Veyrac’s late husband developed the Grand Hotel in Cannes, one of the palatial seaside establishments favored by the international jet set.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)