German investigators arrest third suspect in attempted blackmail of family of former Formula 1 driver


BERLIN (AP) — German investigators said Friday they have arrested a third suspect in an attempt to blackmail the family of a former Formula 1 driver. Michael Schumacher.

The 52-year-old man, who was arrested on Thursday in a town near Wuppertal in western Germany, worked for the family as a security officer, the German news agency dpa reported, citing the public prosecutor’s office.

Detectives searched the man’s home and seized items including mobile phones, hard drives and memory sticks to search for evidence, prosecutor Wolf-Tilman Baumert said. The suspect was not named in accordance with German privacy rules.

Prosecutors in the case two men arrested last month and said the couple – a father and son from Wuppertal – had told family employees they were in possession of files that the family did not want published.

The two men allegedly demanded a payment of several million euros, otherwise they would publish the files on the darknet, prosecutors said. As alleged evidence, the suspects sent some files to the family.

Baumert said one of the first inmates told investigators that the 52-year-old had provided the files for the blackmail attempt. Baumert said the 52-year-old had worked for the Schumacher family in the past and “was assigned the task of digitizing private photos.”

According to the Public Prosecution Service, if found guilty, the suspects risk a fine or a prison sentence of up to five years.

Schumacher suffered a near-fatal brain injury in December 2013 while skiing in the French Alps near Meribel, when he fell and hit his head on a rock, causing his helmet to burst. Since being discharged from hospital in September 2014, the seven-time Formula 1 champion has been receiving private care at a family home in Switzerland.

The 55-year-old retired from Formula 1 in 2012 after winning 91 races and five consecutive titles with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004. The German driver’s other two titles came with Benetton in 1994 and 1995.

In May, the Schumacher family won a lawsuit against the publisher of a celebrity magazine that interview generated by artificial intelligence with the F1 great.

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