Panfilo Colonico, the Italian-Canadian chef kidnapped in Ecuador, is free: “I’m fine”

TORONTO – Panfilo Colonico, the 49-year-old chef born in Toronto, originally from Sulmona (L’Aquila, Italy) and kidnapped in Ecuador a week ago, has been freed. “I’m fine and the police are listening to me. It wasn’t a movie”, were the first words of “Benny the Italian”, well known in Ecuador where he had success with the restaurant “Il Sabore Mio” which opened some time ago in Guayaquil, in the Province of Guayas. 

As is known, Panfilo had been “taken” from his restaurant last Friday by two people, armed and dressed as policemen, with machine guns in hand and with two accomplices waiting for them outside the restaurant. A “strange” kidnapping: Colonico’s ex-wife (who lives in Italy with her daughters and no longer has relations with Panfilo) called it a “staging”.

Today, the clamorous news: long beard, black tank top and Bermuda shorts, with a tired but smiling face (in the pic above, from social networks), the Italian-Canadian chef reappeared in almost good condition, even if visibly upset. The Ecuadorian media report that it was Colonico himself who showed up in front of his business aboard a taxi: according to what the chef himself reported, the kidnappers left him at a toll booth. It is unclear whether a ransom was paid for the “release”. Once free, the chef first got in touch with the police and then with some friends from Sulmona.

The local police are now trying to reconstruct all the details of the story and are listening to the chef. Two of the five alleged perpetrators of the kidnapping were arrested on Wednesday, as were one of the chef’s two bodyguards: the bodyguard, whom Colonico had recruited a few days before the kidnapping to protect his own safety, was reported for a theft in the chef’s restaurant occurred at closing time. The security guard allegedly stole two televisions and $350 in cash. Not only that: in recent days, one of the robbers had returned to the restaurant for lunch, as reported by some witnesses. In fact, the restaurant has always remained open because, the employees allegedly said, “we cannot afford to suspend the activity since we have not been paid for a month and a half”.

A strange story, in short, with so many shadows that also extend over the 49-year-old’s past: Panfilo had apparently left Sulmona due to an unsustainable economic situation and it seems that he is charged with various fraud complaints and that he has contracted debts with more people, according to the investigations carried out by the Farnesina, the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry. No news, however, from the Global Affairs Canada government agency which also dealt with the matter, Colonico being a Canadian citizen. 

READ OUR ARTICLE ABOUT THE KIDNAPPING OF PANFILO COLONICO: The mystery of the kidnapping of ‘Benny the Italian’ in Ecuador also involves Canada