Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

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Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 27, 2019 Bernie Ecclestone during practice REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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SAO PAULO, May 26 (Reuters) - Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was arrested in Brazil late on Wednesday for illegally carrying a gun while boarding a private plane to Switzerland, local police said on Thursday.

The Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone's luggage during an X-ray screening, police said in a statement, adding that the 91-year-old was then arrested and taken to a facility at Viracopos airport in Campinas.

Ecclestone acknowledged owning the gun, but said he was unaware it was in his luggage at the time, police said. The Briton paid bail and was freed to travel to Switzerland.

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Asked about Ecclestone's arrest, the Sao Paulo state public security office confirmed in a statement to Reuters that a businessman was arrested for possession of a firearm at Campinas' airport, but did not name him directly.

The office said the "small, silver colored pistol" was out of ammunition and that the arrestee had to pay 6,060 reais ($1,257.55) as bail. The handgun was seized, it added.

Ecclestone was not immediately available for comment on why he had a gun.

He is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice-president and member of the World Motor Sport Council.

Her mother Aparecida Schunck was kidnapped in Sao Paulo in 2016, with criminals demanding 120 million reais ($25.07 million) in ransom before she was freed nine days later in a police raid without any money being paid.

Such kidnappings have become less common in recent years, however.

Ecclestone also suffered a head injury in 2010 after being mugged in central London, his attackers making off with jewellery including a watch.

The Ecclestones attended several events in the South American country in May, including a local Stock Car race in the countryside near Sao Paulo and a meeting with triple world champion Nelson Piquet in Brasilia.

The Ecclestones own a coffee plantation near Sao Paulo, which they bought in 2012 and where they regularly spend time when not in Europe. Piquet drove for Brabham when it was owned by Ecclestone in the 1970s and 80s.

For decades Ecclestone was Mr Formula One, the man who did the deals, turned the wheels and transformed the sport into today’s billion dollar business.

He was moved aside in 2017 when U.S.-based Liberty Media took control of the commercial rights.

($1 = 4.8189 reais)

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Reporting by Eduardo Simoes, Gabriel Araujo and Leonardo Benassatto, additional reporting by Alan Baldwin in Monaco; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis

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