Married couple jailed for Sahil kidnap

First published in Feeds

A married couple have been sentenced by a Spanish court to 10 years in jail each for kidnapping a five-year-old boy from Oldham.

A panel of three judges at the Provincial Court in Tarragona found Muhammad Zahid Saleem and Gianina Monica Neruja guilty of snatching Sahil Saeed at gunpoint in Pakistan in March 2010.

The court heard that Saleem and Neruja had made threatening calls to Sahil’s family and travelled to Paris to collect the £110,000 ransom from one of his uncles.

Saleem, who hails from Pakistan, was found not guilty of conspiracy, robbery in conjunction with a crime of trespassing and eight charges of unlawful arrest. Neruja, his Romanian wife, was also cleared of conspiracy.

Their Pakistani flatmate, Khawaja Fawaaz Munawar, was found not guilty of kidnap of a minor and conspiracy.

Khawaja, who was living in Spain as an illegal immigrant when he was arrested, was charged under the name Muhammad Sageiz.

Sahil was snatched by an armed gang at his grandmother’s home during a holiday with his father in Jhelum, in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Four masked men carrying AK-47 assault rifles and grenades tied up and beat members of the family and ransacked the house before making off with the child.

An international police operation was launched and Sahil was released in Pakistan after the £110,000 ransom was dropped off by his uncle, Tauseer Ahmed, in Paris and collected by Saleem and Neruja.

Sahil was snatched by an armed gang at his grandmother’s home during a holiday with his father in Jhelum, in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Four masked men carrying AK-47 assault rifles and grenades tied up and beat members of the family and ransacked the house before making off with the child.

An international police operation was launched and Sahil was released in Pakistan after the £110,000 ransom was dropped off by his uncle, Tauseer Ahmed, in Paris and collected by Saleem and Neruja.

In their written sentence, the panel of judges presided over by Jose Manuel Sanchez said: “It is evident that both Muhammad Zahid Saleem and Gianina Monica Neruja were in contact with the people who carried out the kidnapping in Pakistan.

”They assumed the role of obtaining the payment of the ransom and, once they believed they were safe in their home in Tarragona, two days after the ransom had been paid, Muhammad Zahid Saleem gave the order to free the child the following day.

”There was a direct link between the payment of the ransom, a call made by Saleem to the boy’s uncle and father, indicating that the money was correct, and a call to someone in Pakistan telling them to ‘do the job tomorrow’, and the freeing of the child the following day.”

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