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Italy busts kidnap ring targeting custody battles

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October 31, 2013 05:33 PM EST | AP


ROME (AP) — Italian police said Thursday they have busted an international ring of former special forces agents hired to "recover" children involved in custody battles who were spirited across borders by one of their parents.

Palermo police said three Italians and a Ukrainian were arrested in Italy on kidnapping charges, and warrants were issued for two Norwegians and a Swede in custody in Tunisia.

Police said the investigation involves a Norwegian firm APB World Group Ltd., which allegedly charged thousands of euros (dollars) to recover children whisked out of countries by a parent who had lost a custody battle. Parents desperate to recover a child were turning to ABP World rather than pursue official channels, the police said.

Martin Waage, the CEO of APB World Group, disputed the police statement.

"We are not a child trafficking agency. We are a professional child security company," he said in a telephone interview. "We never use weapons. There's a lot of fantasy on the part of the Italian police. We are not wanted by Interpol."

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Matti Huuhtanen contributed from Helsinki.