Bernie Ecclestone’s former helicopter pilot has been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of Ecclestone’s mother-in-law, who was rescued by Brazilian police on Monday after being held for nine days on a 28 million ($51.4m) ransom.
Jorge Eurico da Silva Faria, head of the Brazilian association of helicopter pilots until last year, was arrested at his home in Sao Paulo.
He previously worked for Ecclestone, running the helicopter operation for Formula 1 until 2014 and transporting the tycoon around the country.
Faria is one of three arrested for the kidnapping of Aparecida Schunck, 67, the mother of Ecclestone’s wife, Fabiana Flosi, 38, who was abducted from her home in Sao Paulo.
Formula 1 boss Ecclestone, who has a 2.3b fortune, has heavy security for himself and his daughters Petra, 27, and Tamara, 32, all based in Britain.
She was freed on Monday, reportedly after police traced phone calls and emails made by her captors.But Schunck was less well protected, and was taken by men who posed as delivery drivers and grabbed her when she opened the door.
No ransom was paid, said Elisabete Sato of Sao Paulo police.
The two suspects who carried out the kidnapping – reportedly for 4600 each – have been arrested and police are continuing to search for more of the criminals behind the plot.
Aparecida Schunck and her daughter Fabiana Flosi. Photo / Instagram
The ransom demanded was the largest ever made by kidnappers in Brazil
Schunck was not harmed in the operation to release her, which was conducted by Sao Paulo’s anti-kidnapping division.
“I ask that bandits stop kidnapping people in Sao Paulo because they will be arrested,” said Schunck, arriving at a police station in Sao Paulo flanked by police and a media scrum.
Ecclestone, 85, married Flosi in 2012, three years after meeting her at the Brazilian Grand Prix. “I’m very happy,” said Ecclestone, shortly after his mother-in-law was freed.
“The last few days haven’t been very good. This isn’t a good thing to happen to you and your family.”
It is understood he wanted to fly to Brazil to assist police and also offered the use of a private security company.
“The police officers we dealt with were fantastic,” he added. “We are very, very, very happy with them.”
The two alleged kidnappers, Vitor Oliveira Amorim, and Davi Vicente Azevedo, were known to police for theft and other crimes, but nothing on the scale of Schunk’s abduction.
The pair used a Yahoo email account to negotiate the 28m ransom with Schunck’s family, which led detectives to Azevedo, according to reports. He also left fingerprints on Schunck’s Ford Fiesta car.
Police discovered Azevedo suffered a motorbike accident last Wednesday and had left the hideout to find medical help.
They seized him on Monday as he left the house in Sao Paulo, walking on crutches. He agreed to collaborate with police and led them to the house where Amorim was guarding Schunck.
The kidnapping has raised further fears about security during the Olympics, starting in Rio de Janeiro this week. Brazil has some of the world’s highest rates of violent crime
and protests by local police over lack of resources have stirred concerns.
In June, officers mounted a protest in the arrivals hall at Rio’s international airport, greeting passengers with a banner reading: “Welcome to Hell: Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”