Mercury (Hobart)

Kidnap probe in cable car tragedy

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Magistrate­s have opened a kidnapping investigat­ion after an Israeli man allegedly smuggled his grandson, who is the only survivor of a cable car crash in Italy that killed 14 people, including his parents, into Israel on a private jet.

Shmuel Peleg is suspected of driving six-year-old Eitan Biran over the Swiss border from Italy and flying him from Lugano to Israel, violating a custody order.

Cristina Pagni, a lawyer representi­ng the boy’s Italy-based paternal aunt, said the episode violated the 1980 Hague convention on internatio­nal child abduction, which Israel adopted in 1991.

The family tug of war started in May when Eitan was the sole survivor of a cable car crash at Lake Maggiore that killed his parents, his two great-grandparen­ts and his baby brother. The family had been living in Italy for five years.

Italian judges named his father’s sister, Aya Biran-Nirko, who also lives in Italy, as guardian.

That was contested by his late mother’s family, who demanded he be relocated to Israel.

Mr Peleg, a former Israeli soldier, is thought to have ties to Israeli intelligen­ce. Experts in the Israeli foreign and justice ministries have issued a legal opinion denouncing the move as likely to have been a kidnapping.

A source said the Italian government had yet to contact the Israeli government on the matter.

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