3 Arrested in Blackmail Attempt on BMW Heiress


Three men have been arrested in Germany over a failed attempt to blackmail the country's richest woman, BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, prosecutors said Friday.

Klatten went to the police in mid-June immediately after her office received a letter from the would-be blackmailers, said Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, a spokesman for prosecutors in Munich.

They demanded 800,000 euros ($1.1 million) and a BMW X5 sport utility vehicle or else they threatened to sell to the Italian press secretly recorded videotapes of her trysts with a Swiss man, Helg Sgarbi.

Prosecutors characterized the latest blackmail attempt as a copycat crime. Steinkraus-Koch said there was no indication the suspects -- two of whom have previous fraud convictions -- had any connection to Sgarbi, who was convicted earlier this year of defrauding Klatten.

The three suspects were nabbed in Duisburg on Wednesday after investigators, posing as people close to the 47-year-old Klatten, set up a meeting with the men.

Sgarbi, dubbed "the Swiss gigolo" by German media, was sentenced in March to six years in prison for defrauding Klatten of 7 million euros and attempting to blackmail her for tens of millions more.

Sgarbi said he convinced Klatten to give him 7 million euros by saying it was for the treatment of a girl who was left paraplegic after he hit her with his car. He also admitted at his trial that he threatened to release the videotapes unless the married Klatten gave him millions to keep quiet.