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Ecclestone said the firearm, a LW Seecamp .32, was not loaded and it was packed in his luggage by accident.
The 91-year-old claimed he spent several hours with local police reporting the incident, because the gun had not been registered.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Ecclestone said: “No, I wasn’t arrested, I was questioned.
“I had a small, tiny little handgun, like a woman carries in her handbag in case someone tries to jump them.
“I got it from somebody years ago, a mechanic in Formula One, who said it is good to carry in your pocket in Brazil because they are mugging people all the time out there, and you can say bugger off.
“It has no bullets or anything, and it was just a show-thing. Whether it would have worked or not, I don’t know because it has never happened to me. I only ever had it in the house and I have never walked around with it.
“But I was mucking about with it at home, jokingly pretending to arrest somebody, and then I took my shirt off.
No, I wasn’t arrested, I was questioned.
“I left my things to be packed and that shirt was packed in with my luggage.
“When we got to the airport, I was asked to come to immigration because they had scanned our luggage and they said it looks like there is a gun.
“They said we won’t open anything until you are there. I arrived, we opened the bag, we all looked through the luggage, we couldn’t find it, and eventually we found it.
“I told them what it was and they said now we have got a problem because it has to be reported.
“The gun is legal in Brazil but where they were upset is that it is not registered. The offence was not having the gun but that it wasn’t registered.”
Ecclestone, who is now in Portugal, said he had to pay 6,000 Brazilian reals (£1,000), to the local authorities, and the gun was confiscated.
He added: “We spent forever trying to sort it out to report things, and by then the airport was closed, and we couldn’t leave until five in the morning [on Thursday] so I spent a pleasant few hours with the police.
“But it was all very friendly, very nice and there were lots of Formula One enthusiasts to speak to.
“They wouldn’t take dollars so it had to be local currency and it was 6,000 reals which was nothing.
“It was all very embarrassing for everybody – a lot of aggravation for nothing.”