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The mother-in-law of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been reported kidnapped in São Paulo in what local media claims is the country’s largest ransom case.
The kidnappers are said to be demanding R$120m ($37m) for the return of 67-year-old Aparecida Schunck, who was taken last Friday, only two weeks ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Veja magazine reported. Police in São Paulo declined to comment.
Aparecida Schunck, the mother of the 85-year-old Mr Ecclestone’s Brazilian wife Fabiana Flosi, 39, was kidnapped in Interlagos, the neighbourhood in São Paulo’s gritty outer suburbs where the city’s Formula One track is surrounded by favelas, or slums.
Jenson Button, the Formula One driver, escaped what might have been a kidnapping attempt in 2010 while returning from a practice session at the same course. His driver had to take evasive action to avoid a group of men who emerged brandishing firearms.
Mr Ecclestone and his family, who declined to comment on the kidnapping, are reported by Forbes magazine to have a fortune worth $3.1bn. He became president of F1 in 1978 and remains in control of the franchise in spite of selling most of his stake.
He was married to Slavica Ecclestone, a former Croatian model, for 24 years until their divorce in 2009, Forbes said. He married Ms Flosi in 2012.
The kidnapping of Ms Schunck will worry officials, coming as Brazil prepares for the arrival of thousands of VIPs, athletes and foreign tourists for the Olympic Games in Rio.
While crime in Rio is expected to be suppressed during the games by one of the country’s biggest security operations, Brazil`s economy is suffering a deepening recession that has left state police forces short of funds.
Kidnapping was once a scourge of Brazil’s wealthy and middle classes, with even people of relatively modest income held and sometimes murdered for ransom. Police finally cracked down in the early 2000s.
Prominent Brazilian businesspeople who have suffered kidnappings include Abilio Diniz, the country’s biggest retail shopping magnate and Roberto Medina, the entrepreneur behindits biggest rock music festival, Rock in Rio.
Others, such as Brazil’s richest man, Jorge Paulo Lemann, one of the controlling shareholders of brewer AB InBev, have suffered kidnapping attempts on their families.
Veja did not report more details, other than to say that the amount requested would be the biggest payout in Brazilian history. The bandits reportedly requested the money be paid in pounds sterling separated into four bags.
Veja reported that kidnappings reached their peak in 2001-2002 in Brazil, when São Paulo alone had 321 kidnappings, or one every 27 hours. Many of the victims were kept for more than a month by their captives, often in close confinement and terrible conditions.