Israeli who kidnapped grandson after Italy cable car crash settles case

The grandfather triggered a custody battle by driving his grandson, then living in Italy, to Switzerland and chartering a private jet to Israel.

 An Italian fire brigade helicopter prepares to lift the crashed cable car cabin, which left 14 people dead, after it collapsed on May 23, 2021, in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy November 8, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/FLAVIO LO SCALZO)
An Italian fire brigade helicopter prepares to lift the crashed cable car cabin, which left 14 people dead, after it collapsed on May 23, 2021, in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy November 8, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/FLAVIO LO SCALZO)

An Italian judge on Thursday accepted a plea bargain by an Israeli man accused of kidnapping his grandson who was orphaned after a cable car disaster in northern Italy in May last year, closing the drawn-out case.

The sole survivor of the crash

The judge in the northern city of Pavia approved the request of Shmuel Peleg, grandfather of seven-year-old Eitan Biran who was the sole survivor of the cable car crash, to settle the case with a suspended 20-month prison sentence and payment of around 50,000 euros.

The money, to be used to cover Eitan's health and education expenses, has already been paid.

Eitan was born in Israel but moved to Italy with his family when he was one month old. He had been living with his paternal aunt since his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when the gondola on a line connecting Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore to the nearby Mottarone mountain, plunged to the ground.

Giuseppe Zanalda, lawyer of Eitan's paternal aunt, and Sara Carsaniga, the lawyer representing Peleg, both confirmed the court's decision.

 Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of Eitan Biran, a six-year-old boy who was the only survivor of an Italian cable car disaster and is now at the centre of a custody battle, looks on after a court hearing in Tel Aviv, Israel September 23, 2021. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS) Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of Eitan Biran, a six-year-old boy who was the only survivor of an Italian cable car disaster and is now at the centre of a custody battle, looks on after a court hearing in Tel Aviv, Israel September 23, 2021. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)

Kidnapped in a private jet

In September 2021 Peleg, while visiting Eitan at his aunt's house, drove him to Switzerland without the aunt's consent and chartered a private jet onward to Israel, triggering a cross-border custody battle.

The aunt petitioned the Israeli family court for his return to Italy. The court found that the grandfather's actions amounted to kidnapping under the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children.

Israel's Supreme Court on December 2021 rejected a request by the grandfather to appeal against previous court rulings, saying that the boy must be sent back to his paternal aunt in Italy where he is living now.