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BMW heiress is blackmailed again

GERMAN police arrested three men suspected of attempting to blackmail Susanne Klatten, the country's wealthiest woman, by claiming they had a secret video of her affair with a Swiss gigolo, prosecutors said yesterday.

Munich state prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said the trio were arrested last week by police in the northern town of Duisburg on suspicion of trying to extort 800,000 euros (US$1.13 million) and a BMW luxury SUV from Klatten, heiress to the BMW empire.

"They sent a letter to her threatening to give the sex video they claimed to have to Italian media if she did not give them 800,000 euros and a BMW," said Steinkraus-Koch, adding that Klatten immediately forwarded the letter to police.

"We assume the story about the video was contrived. At least we have found no evidence of any such video after searching their apartments and computers. There is nothing to suggest they ever were in possession of such a sex video."

The three men aged 33 to 46 -- including one German and one Serb -- were contacted by a police officer posing as an acquaintance of Klatten, which led to the arrest, he said.

Klatten, a member of the Quandt family -- the leading shareholders in car maker BMW -- went public last year with the story of how her Swiss lover secretly shot intimate footage and later demanded tens of million of euros not to reveal it.

Helg Sgarbi, a former Swiss investment banker, was sentenced to six years in jail by a Munich court after he admitted he had seduced Klatten and three other wealthy women. He persuaded them to pay him nearly 10 million euros under various false pretexts.

Sgarbi won over Klatten, a 46-year-old married mother of three, at a health center.

She later handed him a cardboard box containing 7 million euros in 500-euro notes, believing he had paralyzed a child in a traffic accident and needed the money.

Klatten ended the relationship after Sgarbi, 44, demanded more money. He responded by threatening to send photos and tapes of their hotel-room rendezvous to colleagues, family and media unless she gave him 49 million euros. She then went to police.

Klatten's wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at almost US$10 billion, making her the 68th richest person in the world.

In March, a truck driver from Bochum tried to blackmail Klatten with a similar claim. He was seeking 75,000 euros and is now on trial in Munich for attempted blackmail.


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