Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for ‘carrying gun on to plane’

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Bernie Ecclestone - Reuters
Bernie Ecclestone - Reuters

Motor racing tycoon Bernie Ecclestone was arrested at a Brazilian airport as he tried to board a private plane on Wednesday evening after a gun was found in his hand luggage, according to local police.

São Paulo's civil police found an unlicensed .32-calibre LW Seecamp pistol in the 91-year-old's carry-on luggage during X-ray screening. The gun was reportedly stashed inside a shirt pocket.

The former Formula One boss was preparing to fly to Switzerland on his private jet, departing from Viracopos Airport in Campinas, 60 miles from the city of São Paulo.

Ecclestone acknowledged that he had purchased the gun from a Formula One mechanic five years prior, but that it had not been licenced in his name. He claimed he was unaware it was in his luggage, police said.

The weapon was reportedly unloaded and did not have its magazine.

A LW Seecamp 32 handgun
A LW Seecamp 32 handgun

Police arrested Mr Ecclestone, who was later released after posting bail of R$6,060 (approximately £1,000). According to the police report, he was then free to board his flight to Switzerland, but law enforcement say they will continue to investigate the incident.

Mr Ecclestone had been in Brazil since the beginning of May, where he visited a number of motor racing events around the state of São Paulo.

He also visited the capital city Brasilia to attend a ceremony inaugurating the redevelopment of the Autodromo Nelson Piquet race circuit. Mr Piquet won the Formula One World Championship twice in the 1980s while driving for Mr Ecclestone’s Brabham race team.

The 91-year-old regularly spends time in the country, alongside his Brazilian-born wife, Fabiana Flosi Ecclestone, and their one-year-old son, Ace. Ms Ecclestone is the current South American vice president of the motor sport governing body FIA.

The couple have owned a 500-acre coffee farm in the São Paulo city of Amparo since 2012, where they manufacture and sell their Celebrity Coffee brand.

Fabiana - Charles Coates/Getty Images
Fabiana - Charles Coates/Getty Images

In 2020, Mr Ecclestone and his wife spent a large part of the pandemic in self-isolation at his Amparo farmhouse.

It is commonplace for rural property owners in Brazil to own firearms for protection purposes, however a large share of these weapons are typically unlicensed.

The possession of an illegal firearm carries a sentence of four years' imprisonment in Brazil. However, officers agreed to allow the business magnate to post bail due to the "notable personal fortune of the suspect" and his advanced age.

In 2016, Mr Ecclestone's Brazilian mother-in-law was kidnapped in São Paulo and held for 10 days while criminals demanded a ransom from the then Formula One CEO, who refused to pay. Seven men were arrested for the crime.

Ecclestone's representatives were unable to provide a comment on the developments.

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