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Full Version: 3 arrested in Germany over attempt to blackmail BMW heiress, country's richest woman
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FILE - In this June 6, 2005 file photo German billionaire Susanne Klatten is seen in Munich, southern Germany. 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, July 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein, File) (Uwe Lein, AP / June 6, 2005)

MUNICH (AP) — 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 in Munich received the first letter from the would-be blackmailers, said Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, a spokesman for prosecutors in the city.

They demanded euro800,000 ($1.1 million) and a BMW X5 sport utility vehicle to stop them from selling 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 that the suspects — two of whom have previous fraud convictions — had any connection to Sgarbi, who was convicted earlier this year of defrauding Klatten.

He said they also appeared not to have the videotapes, or even to have viewed them.

The three suspects were nabbed in the western city of Duisburg on Wednesday after investigators, posing as people close to the 47-year-old Klatten, set up an appointment to hand over the money.

The suspects, who came from Duisburg, were between 33 and 46 years old, but prosecutors did not give further details.

Sgarbi, dubbed "the Swiss gigolo" by German media, was sentenced in March to six years in prison for defrauding Klatten of euro7 million and attempting to blackmail her for tens of millions more.

Sgarbi said he convinced Klatten to give him euro7 million 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 tryst videotapes unless the married Klatten gave him millions to keep quiet.

The suspected blackmailers arrested this week weren't the first to try milking the case for money.

In March, a 50-year-old German with multiple previous convictions tried to extract euro75,000 from Klatten, claiming that he had met Sgarbi in prison and could obtain the videos for her. He was arrested at a bakery in the city of Bochum, where he had asked that the money be left.
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