Bernie focuses on job in spite of kidnapping
It was business as usual for Bernie Ecclestone at the German Grand Prix last weekend — despite his mother-in-law being held by kidnappers in Brazil.
The Formula 1 boss, who last week postponed the introduction of extra cockpit head protection until 2018, was spotted at the track in Hockenheim ahead of Sunday’s race.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton won the race, extending his lead in this year’s champs.
Aparecida Schunk, 67, the mother of Ecclestone’s Brazilian wife Fabiana Flosi, was kidnapped from her gated home in Sao Paulo early last Friday.
She was at home with two maids when the buzzer sounded on her intercom. The men at the gate posed as delivery drivers and were carrying a box.
One of the maids opened the door and, as she did, the raiders forced their way in with a knife and took all three hostage. The armed gang ordered Schunk into her car and drove off.
The vehicle was found abandoned about 40km away on a motorway west of Sao Paulo.
A neighbour said the raiders — thought to be aged about 18 — may have had guns.
Police believe the kidnapping was carried out by an organised criminal gang based in Europe, who had been “meticulously planning” it for months.
Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula One Group, has a fortune estimated at NZ$2.4 billion.
She was eventually freed this week, without a ransom being paid, say police.
The anti-kidnapping division of the Sao Paulo police reportedly stormed the building where she was being held at around 6.40 pm on Sunday, according to The Mirror.
Two suspects were now in custody and Schunk was said to be in good condition.
Sao Paulo's elite anti-kidnap division negotiators had been working with the gang over the last few days before the police squad forced entry Sunday evening.
The kidnappers were reportedly demanding a ransom of $51 million for her release, and were understood to be in contact with the Ecclestone family.
The kidnappers had demanded the ransom be paid in British pounds and divided into four bags of cash, a source close to the investigation told Brazilian magazine Veja.
The amount is the largest ever demanded in a kidnapping in Brazil, where there are hundreds of cases a year.
With the Olympics beginning on Friday, the incident is the latest blow to Brazil amid security fears ranging from street crime to militant attacks.
There are increasing fears wealthy visitors will avoid travelling to the country for the event despite a crackdown by police, including the formation of a special anti-kidnap division called The Untouchables.
Brazil is also in the grip of one of its worst economic crises.
Ecclestone, 85, met Flosi, 38, in 2009 in the run-up to the Brazilian Grande Prix in Interlagos, where she was working as marketing director for Brazil’s Formula 1.
The couple married three years after Ecclestone divorced his former wife of 25 years, Croatian model Slavica Radic, to be with her and they live in the UK.
Flosi and her mother, who continued living in the Interlagos district of Sao Paulo, are close.
Flosi — who is friends with Sky Sports F1 reporter Natalie Pinkham — and Ecclestone live in Kensington, West London.
They have not released a statement on the abduction.
The kidnapping is the latest threat to Ecclestone and his family.
Six years ago, he was mugged outside his office near the Royal Albert Hall, by robbers who made off with his $46,000 Hublot watch.
Three years ago his daughter Tamara was the victim of attempted blackmail and this year $121 million home of his younger daughter Petra, was firebombed.