Tue, March 10, 2009
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Gigolo blackmails BMW heiress

2009-03-10 06:22:25 GMT2009-03-10 14:22:25 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

A man nicknamed the "Swiss gigolo" is sentenced to six years in prison for seducing and trying to blackmail BMW-heiress Susanne Klatten, Germany's wealthiest woman.

SCRIPT:

Sentenced to six years in prison for blackmailing Germany's wealthiest woman.

Helg Sgarbi, nicknamed the "Swiss gigolo" by the German media, admitted in court he seduced and blackmailed Susanne Klatten, heiress to the BMW car empire.

Married-mother-of-three Klatten - known for being discreet - shocked the country by going public with the story of how Sgarbi filmed their secret meetings in hotels and later demanded 49 million euros, almost 60 million U.S. dollars, to keep quiet.

The state prosecutor:

SOUNDBITE: Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, State prosecutor, saying (German):

"Fundamentally we the state prosecutors can't say we are satisified, and on the other hand, there isn't a victory. We will independently review whether we want to appeal or not. We have to look over the separate penalties and then we will see if we appeal or not."

But Sgarbi's defence lawyer was happy with the sentence.

SOUNDBITE: Egon Geis, Sgarbi's defence lawyer, saying (German):

"They could've given him 12, or 15 years. So I'm happy. The state prosecutor wanted nine, I wanted five, and it's six, so I'm happy."

46-year-old Klatten wasn't the only woman to fall for Sgarbi's charms - and lies.

He also admitted seducing three other wealthy women.

The 44-year-old persuaded the four to pay him almost 10 million euros.

He even claimed he needed to money to pay off the Italian mafia.

Sgarbi falsely described himself to Klatten as a special envoy for war zones, and said he could speak several languages.

Klatten's wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at almost 10 billion U.S. dollars.

She's a member of the Quandt family - which had close ties to the Nazi party.

And newspapers originally reported that Sgarbi had justified his actions by saying he wanted to avenge his Jewish grandfather's forced labour in Klatten's family's factories during the war.

This claim wasn't mentioned in court.

Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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