Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Crook’s £6m bid to blackmail BMW heiress

An international conman who tried to blackmail one of the world’s richest women was jailed for six years yesterday.

Helg Sgarbi (44), began an affair with married German BMW heiress Susanne Klatten and convinced her to give him £6.2m to care for a non-existent sick daughter.

He then threatened to release videos of them having sex unless Mrs Klatten, worth an estimated £7bn, gave him tens of millions more.

The Munich state court found Sgarbi guilty of fraud and attempted blackmail against Mrs Klatten and two other rich women, who were not identified.

Swiss Sgarbi told the court he met Mrs Klatten at an Austrian spa in July 2007 and started an affair.

Using what prosecutors called a well-practised scam, he told her that he was |involved in a car accident in the United States that left his daughter paralysed, and |convinced her to give him the sum of money for her treatment.

Sgarbi then demanded Mrs Klatten give him £44m or he would release the secretly filmed videos of their affair.

She bargained him down to £12.5m, but went to the police in January 2007.

Prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch praised Mrs Klatten for her bravery in stepping forward.

“The only victim who came to us and gave a witness statement is Mrs Klatten. We had to find the others, with great difficulty,” Mr Steinkraus-Koch said.

Klatten is the daughter of late BMW magnate Herbert Quandt and holds a 46% stake in the company, along with her mother and brother. She also owns a 88.3% share of chemical company Altana.

Forbes magazine listed her as the 68th richest person in the world last year.

Sgarbi was also convicted of taking £2.4m from three other women in similar scams.

“I deeply regret what has happened and apologise to the aggrieved ladies in this public hearing,” he told the court.

His lawyer said his client would not answer any questions about where the money had gone or whether anyone had helped him.

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