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Germany

Germany's Richest Woman Blackmailed by Former Lover

Susanne Klatten, Germany's richest woman and an heiress to carmaker BMW's fortune, was blackmailed for millions by a Swiss lover threatening to release secretly-filmed videos of the two, her spokesman confirmed.

Susanne Klatten, Germany's richest woman

Susanne Klatten, Germany's wealthiest woman

Reports in the German media over the weekend said Klatten had begun an affair with the Swiss man, identified as Helg Sgarbis, in 2006.

The two met at luxury hotels in Monte Carlo, Munich and other cities, according to the reports. A year later, Sgarbi began demanding money.

When Sgarbi demanded as much as a reported 40 million euros threatened to go public with pictures and videos of their trysts, Klatten went to the police.

"A victim of fraud and blackmail"

On Saturday, Klatten's personal spokesman Joerg Appelhans told The Associated Press that Klatten approached Munich prosecutors last January to report that she was a victim of fraud and blackmail.

Appelhans said Sgarbi threatened to release "images of their encounters together" if Klatten did not pay him millions of euros.

The spokesman said that "from the beginning the goal was to betray and blackmail her."

The secret films of their sex encounters were apparently taken by Sgarbi's accomplice, Italian resident Ernano Barretta, media reports said.

A spokesman of the Austrian Federal Criminal Police told news agency APA that two men, a 43-year-old Swiss national and 63-year-old Italian, had been arrested in connection with Klatten's blackmail.

The arrests came after a joint Italian-German police operation that intercepted telephone calls to Barretta's home near Pescara on Italy's Adriatic Coast.

Prosecutors in Munich confirmed that an investigation into the case was under way, but declined to give details.

68th richest person in the world

A mother of three, 43-year-old Klatten owns a major stake in BMW. She also owns a 50 per cent stake of chemical firm Altana.

Her fortune comes from her late father, Herbert Quandt, who cooperated with Hitler during World War II.

Forbes magazine listed Susanne Klatten as the 68th richest person in the world in 2007, with a personal fortune of around $9.6 billion.

BMW and the Quandt family have refused to comment on the affair.

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