German investigators detain third suspect in attempted blackmail of former Formula 1 driver's family

FILE - Michael Schumacher announces his retirement from Formula One during a press conference at the Suzuka Circuit venue for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix in Suzuka, Japan, Oct. 4, 2012. German prosecutors say two men who allegedly tried blackmailing the family of former Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher were detained earlier this month. Prosecutors in the western German city of Wuppertal said Monday the suspects told employees of the family that they were in possession of files that the family would not want to be published. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, file) (Itsuo Inouye, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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

The 52-year-old man, who was detained Thursday in a town near Wuppertal in western Germany, had worked for the family as a security officer, German news agency dpa reported, citing prosecutors.

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Investigators searched the man’s home and took away items including mobile phones, hard drives and memory sticks to comb them for evidence, prosecutor Wolf-Tilman Baumert said. The suspect's name wasn’t given in line with German privacy rules.

Prosecutors in the case arrested two men last month and said the pair — a father and son from Wuppertal — had told employees of the family that they were in possession of files that the family wouldn’t want published.

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

Baumert said one of the initial detainees told investigators that the 52-year-old had supplied the files for the blackmail attempt. Baumert said the 52-year-old had worked in the past for the Schumacher family and “been tasked with the digitalization of private photos.”

The suspects face a fine or a prison sentence of up to five years, if convicted, prosecutors have said.

Schumacher suffered a near-fatal brain injury while skiing in the French Alps at Meribel in December 2013. He had fallen and his head hit a rock, which split open his helmet. Since being transferred from a hospital in September 2014, the seven-time F1 champion has been cared for privately at a family home in Switzerland.

The 55-year-old retired from F1 in 2012 after winning 91 races and five straight titles with Ferrari from 2000-2004. The German driver’s other two titles were with Benetton in 1994 and 1995.

In May, Schumacher’s family won legal action against the publisher of a celebrity magazine, which printed an artificial intelligence-generated interview with the F1 great.

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