Brazilian police said they rescued the kidnapped mother-in-law of British Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone unharmed after more than a week in captivity and arrested two men over her abduction.
Aparecida Schunck Flosi Palmeira — the 67-year-old mother of Ecclestone’s Brazilian wife Fabiana Flosi — had been kidnapped on July 22.
Schunck spoke briefly to television cameras as she arrived at a police station after being freed on Sunday, before hugging waiting relatives.
“No one should kidnap anyone in Sao Paulo because they will get arrested,” Schunck said, her voice breaking with emotion.
“The civil police anti-kidnapping division freed the mother-in-law of Bernie Ecclestone this Sunday evening. She emerged unharmed,” the state security service said in a statement.
“Two men were detained at the place where she was held captive in the city of Cotia” in the greater Sao Paulo area, it said.
A demand for a ransom of $188 million was made to the family via email, but was not paid, O Estado de Sao Paulo daily reported. Another newspaper, the weekly Veja, reported that the ransom demand was $36.6 million.
Police did not respond to AFP requests for details.
Kidnappers posing as delivery men abducted Schunck from her home in the Jardin Santa Helena area of Sao Paulo, neighbours told AFP last week.
That area is in the southern Interlagos neighbourhood which hosts the Brazilian circuit of the F1 Grand Prix.
The 38-year-old Brazilian lawyer Flosi met the 85-year-old billionaire Ecclestone while she was working for the Interlagos Grand Prix in 2009.
The couple married in Switzerland and now live in London.
Schunck’s kidnappers struck just days before Rio de Janeiro hosts South America’s first Olympic Games from August 5 to 21.
Foreign athletes, media and visitors have reported thefts and robberies in the crime-plagued host city.
Kidnappings were common in Brazil in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, but dropped with more intensive policing and creation of a specialized anti-kidnapping department.
Relatives of footballers were particularly targeted, including the mother of Brazilian national team star Robinho in 2004. She was held for 41 days in the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
There were reports that she was freed after payment of a ransom of up to $200,000, although the footballer’s lawyers never confirmed this.
Another high profile case involved the father of football star Romario in 1994. He was held for seven days before being freed.
More recently, the sister of national team player Hulk was held for 24 hours in the state of Paraiba.