Open Season in Brazil: Formula One Chief’s Mother-in-Law Kidnapped

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and his wife Fabiana Flosi leaves the court room of the district court in Munich, Germany, 13 May 2014. Ecclestone stands accused of paying former member of the board of BayernLB 44 million euros in bribes and taking a huge part of that sum back …
Andreas Gebert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Criminals have allegedly abducted the mother-in-law of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and are demanding the largest ransom in the nation’s history, in the latest high-profile crime in Brazil preceding the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

The Daily Mail reports that Ecclestone, the fourth wealthiest person in the UK, is being asked for 28 million pounds — over $26 million — for the liberation of Aparecida Schunk, the mother of his Brazilian wife Fabiana Flosi. While police have refused to confirm the abduction, citing the delicate nature of the crime and fears for Schunk’s safety, Brazilian magazine Veja has published the exorbitant sum demanded and reported that the criminals are in contact with Ecclestone.

“We neither confirm nor deny this report. That is our policy in cases of suspected kidnapping, to avoid putting the lives of potential victims in danger,” Agence France-Presse quotes a regional security ministry spokesman as telling them.

The abduction is the latest crime in a string of such occurrences against high-profile names in the sports world just weeks before Rio de Janeiro is set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. In Rio de Janeiro itself, the crimes have targeted athletes, not executives. Last weekend, New Zealander and Jiu-jitsu champion Jason Lee says

In Rio de Janeiro itself, the crimes have targeted athletes, not executives. Last weekend, New Zealander and Jiu-jitsu champion Jason Lee says he was abducted by men wearing Military Police uniforms following what he believed was a routine traffic stop. The men imposed a $600 fine for “driving without a passport,” which is not a crime in Brazil, and forced him to withdraw the money from an ATM at gunpoint. Lee believes they were, in fact, military police officers and not criminals impersonating officer.

The day after going public with the attack on Facebook, Military Police officers went to Lee’s apartment demanding to be let in. Lee immediately took to social media to report the situation and refused them entry. Civil Police — the city police of Rio de Janeiro — then came over after the military officers gave up trying to get Lee to open the door.

Lee’s abductors had warned him not to go public with the incident or face retribution. He said civil police also expressed fear about pursuing the case. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo is reporting, however, that two military police officers have been arrested in relation to this event.

Lee is not an Olympian as Jiu-Jitsu is not an Olympic sport, but he has a devout sports following in Brazil.

He is not alone in being targeted by crime, however. Australian Paralympian sailors Liesl Tesch and Sarah Ross were mugged in broad daylight last month by armed robbers, shortly after cartel-affiliated gunmen stormed the hospital designated for the use of Olympic athletes and tourists, killing a nurse and a patient.

Criminals have also begun selling Olympics-branded cocaine bags. On Monday, O Globo reports, police seized 93 bags of powder cocaine, 28 bags of crack cocaine, and 13 firearms from a Rio drug ring. The bags had the Olympic ring emblazoned on them with the message, “use away from children,” under them.

In addition to petty crime — and numerous medical concerns, from the ongoing Zika epidemic in Latin America to the toxic waters of Olympic venue Guanabara Bay — police arrested 13 people in the past week believed to form a group called the “Guardians of Sharia,” an Islamic State fan group. The 12 men and one minor boy were plotting to buy firearms online to attack Rio Olympics sites in the name of the jihadi groups. Two of the men had served time in prison after being convicted of murder, and at least one of them had converted to Islam in prison.

“We are not invulnerable [to terrorism],” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said Tuesday on Brazilian television. “No one in the world today is invulnerable to it… we will all have to live with this pervasive reality.”


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