© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Formula 1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Bernie Ecclestone and wife Fabiana Flosi before the race on November 25, 2018 REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/
by Alan Baldwin
Monaco (Reuters) – Former Formula 1 leader Bernie Ecclestone on Friday denied his arrest in Brazil and said the illegal firearm found in his luggage before boarding the plane had never been used and had no ammunition.
The 91-year-old Briton, who now lives in Portugal, told Reuters that a “stupid, tiny little incident” caused a lot of trouble when he and his family tried to leave São Paulo on a private jet on Wednesday night.
“I haven’t had any publicity lately and I thought I should do something to get some,” he joked during a phone conversation.
In a statement to Reuters on Thursday, the Sao Paulo State Public Security Bureau confirmed that a businessman had been arrested for possession of a firearm at Campinas airport, but did not directly name one.
“I’ve never been arrested,” said Ecclestone, who doesn’t speak Portuguese, and confirmed he had to pay 6,060 reais ($1,260) bail to be allowed to leave.
“They want a local currency that we never had,” he added. “So there’s another drama trying to find money. I’m leaving the country and I don’t have any local money.
“It was a bloody drama, there was no need, there was nothing.”
Ecclestone said he bought an LW Seecamp .32 many years ago from a Formula 1 mechanic or tire man in Brazil without ammunition and used it purely as a deterrent.
“They say you need something like this,” he explained. “If someone tried to rob you or something, it might work. So I bought it from that person.
He added: “I put it in the house and we’d joke around if anyone came to visit me or something.”
The billionaire has a coffee plantation near São Paulo, and he often spends his time outside of Europe.
Ecclestone said he had been joking with his son Ace, putting the gun in his shirt pocket and the packer putting it in the suitcase without noticing the gun.
Airport scans later found the unregistered firearm.
“It never got shot, it never had any bullets, so I never bothered to register it. I didn’t know you had to,” Ecclestone said.
The billionaire said he then made presentations and completed paperwork at the airport from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. before leaving in the morning.
“It’s good that they picked it up because if I went into Portugal and they found it, it would be another mystery here,” he said.
Ecclestone is married to Fabienne Ecclestone, vice-president of the FIA and member of the World Motor Sport Council.
Her mother, Aparecida Schunck, was kidnapped in São Paulo in 2016 for a ransom of 120 million reais ($25.07 million), and she was released in a police raid nine days later without any payment.
In May, the Ecclestones attended several events in the South American country, including a local Stock Car race in the countryside near Sao Paulo and a race with three-time world champion Nelson Piquet in Brasilia. meet.