France has charged an Italian restaurateur, a homeless former British special forces soldier and a one-time paparazzi photographer over the kidnapping of a French hotel magnate, a prosecutor said. Jacqueline Veyrac, 76, the millionaire owner of the Michelin-starred La Reserve hotel in Nice on France’s Riviera was snatched on Monday as she was getting into her SUV and bundled into a waiting van.
She was released two days later after being spotted by a passerby, tied to the van’s floor.
Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre Sunday said that Veyrac had her wrists and ankles bound and her eyes and mouth sealed with tape. She had managed to partly break free and nearly succeeded in leaving the van, sustaining several injuries, he added.
Authorities have charged three other people for their part in the conspiracy, and all six have been remanded in custody.
They all face life imprisonment if convicted.
Separately, a former police officer who now works as a private detective was charged over failing to alert authorities to the group’s plans and subsequently bailed.
Investigators believe the restaurateur, identified only as Giuseppe S, harboured a grudge against Veyrac.
Originally from Turin, he managed the restaurant at La Reserve from 2007 until 2009 when his company went into liquidation, causing him to resent Veyrac.
The kidnapping was a bid to recover money lost during the liquidation by demanding a ransom from those close to Veyrac, investigators said.
The former press photographer, Luc G — also known as “Tintin” — is accused of fitting a tracking device to Veyrac’s car.
And a British citizen, who served in the UK’s special forces and is now homeless in Nice, is accused of providing surveillance for the gang.
The other three people charged with involvement in the kidnapping are thought to be gang members who took part directly in the kidnapping of Veyrac, who was abducted by three men in the heart of Nice.
Veyrac had been targeted in another attempted kidnapping three years ago but the motive was never clear.
Investigators are now seeking to determine if there is a link between the two events.