Did Govt lie about a ‘daring’ 2012 raid to free 2 SA pirate hostages?

Al Jazeera says Italy paid $525,000 to have Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz released.

FILE: International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane with Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari at the OR Tambo International Airport on 27 June 2012. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - It's being reported two South Africans taken hostage by Somali pirates for almost two years were not freed in a daring raid as claimed, but were in fact released after Italy paid a massive ransom.

Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz were finally freed in 2012 after being held captive for 20 months.

Now news channel Al Jazeera is reporting that Italy paid more than half a million US dollars to have them released.

Al Jazeera claims its six month investigation into the shady world of hostage negotiations reveals the tale of a daring rescue raid to free Pelizzari and Calitz was, in fact, a fabrication.

It's reporting that Italy became involved because of Pelizzari's dual Italian-South African citizenship and paid the pirates a ransom of $525,000.

Leaked secret intelligence cables show the governments of both countries then colluded to feed the media the false story.

Al Jazeera claims Pelizzari's sister has confirmed this new version of events, saying she was told never to disclose the Italians' secret payment.

The official position of both South Africa and Italy remains they don't pay ransoms to pirates.