CRIME

Two Hong Kong women among alleged victims of Italian ex-cop accused of Couchsurfing rape spree

Ex-policeman allegedly assaulted number of women who used free accommodation website

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 February, 2015, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 February, 2015, 11:43am

Two Hong Kong women have emerged as possible victims of a former Italian police officer accused of using a social networking website to lure unsuspecting tourists to his home near Venice where he allegedly drugged and sexually abused them.

Italian prosecutors allege that Dino Maglio - who is behind bars in Italy awaiting trial for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old Australian girl - drugged and sexually abused at least 16 women from 10 countries who contacted him via Couchsurfing, a website that links tourists with local hosts offering free accommodation.

Among the women who have filed formal complaints against Maglio - who has been sacked by the Italian police - are two Hong Kong women who stayed with him in August 2013.

They allege they were fed a "special strawberry dessert wine" that knocked them unconscious and made them suffer memory loss. "I'm sure he put drugs in our drinks or food but I don't know what he did when we were asleep," Amy (not her real name) of Hong Kong told investigators.

Amy, 24, who stayed at Maglio's flat in Padua, 40km from Venice, with her friend Yvonne (also not her real name) added that the man used his position as a police officer to threaten her when she later posted negative comments about him on the Couchsurfing site.

Prosecutors in Italy are acting on a series of fresh complaints gathered by the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), which is working with the South China Morning Post. Several attempts by IRPI and the Post to get a comment from Maglio's lawyer were unsuccessful.

The allegations come as the number of independent travellers from Hong Kong and the mainland to Europe's tourist hotspots is on the rise.

Expedia.com one of the world's biggest travel websites, said the number of independent travellers from Hong Kong going to Europe had jumped 184 per cent in the past six months.

Maglio first started offering to host guests through Couchsurfing as "Leonardo" several years ago. Investigators allege his activity turned sinister in March 2013.

One of Maglio's first suspected victims was a 16-year-old Australian student who stayed at his home with her mother and younger sister. The girl alleges she was raped by Maglio on the night of March 17 last year. Her mother found her "unconscious and with no underwear" the next morning.

Maglio, 36, has admitted having sex with the girl but claims it was consensual. He was arrested in March last year and his trial is set for next month.

Couchsurfing chief executive Jennifer Billock said: "Safety is a top priority for us, and we're constantly evolving our tools and processes to find and halt abusers of our system."

Additional reporting by Lana Lam