Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire former head of Formula One, has been released by Brazilian police following detention for illegally carrying a gun on his private plane.
Staff at Viracopos airport in Campinas, just outside Sao Paulo, were scanning Ecclestone’s luggage before he boarded the jet to bring him to his home in Switzerland. It was then that the undocumented LW Seecamp .32 pistol was discovered and Ecclestone was arrested. At the time, the gun was unloaded, with no magazine or ammunition.
The Seecamp is a tiny, almost palm-sized semi-automatic pistol that holds six bullets. Ecclestone, 91, told police it belonged to him but that he had not realised that it was packed in his bags.
The motorsport mogul was told to pay an undisclosed amount in bail, reported by The Times to be around £1,000, which he did before being allowed to continue his journey to Switzerland.
Ecclestone’s 45-year-old wife, Fabiana Ecclestone (neé Flosi), is a native of Brazil and is thought to have acted as interpreter during the arrest. The couple, who announced the birth of son Ace Ecclestone two years ago, own a 500-acre estate in Amparo, 100 miles inland from Sao Paulo. The former F1 tycoon spent much of the coronavirus lockdown at the estate, which is also home to coffee plantations run by his wife, under the Celebrity Coffee brand.
Ecclestone has had security issues in the past. In 2010 he was mugged and beaten up in London as thieves targeted his expensive Hublot watch. In 2016, Ecclestone’s mother-in-law Aparecida Schunk was held captive in her Sao Paulo apartment, in a crime allegedly planned by a helicopter pilot with ties to the billionaire. Ecclestone’s daughter Tamara had millions of pounds worth of jewellery stolen from her Kensington home in 2020.
Bernie Ecclestone rose from humble roots as a second-hand car trader to become the king of Formula One in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. It was Ecclestone who secured global television rights for the sport in the early 1980s, forming the Formula One Constructors’ Association (Foca) to ramp up the sport’s professionalism and earning power.
Via a series of deals, selling and reselling the rights to F1 to groups such as Germany’s Kirsch TV and investment house CVC Capital Partners. Ecclestone became a billionaire from the deals, but F1 was investigated by the European Union for anti-trust breaches, while Ecclestone himself faced accusations of corruption in the German courts.
The sale of F1’s rights to the US-based Liberty Media Group in 2017 brought an end to the Ecclestone era. Although he was briefly retained by Liberty, his role became an honorary one, and Ecclestone retired from the sport he had helped to build.
Ecclestone has courted controversy in the past, expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin, and once being quoted as saying that Adolf Hitler was a man “who could get things done.”
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