Three arrested in blackmail attempt on BMW heiress, Germany's richest woman

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he wrote that the rich are different. But sometimes, such as in the case of Susanne Klatten, Germany's richest woman, they are just plain dumber than average folks.

Klatten, heiress to the BMW fortune, was allegedly getting blackmailed over steamy sex tapes with Helg Sgarbi, dubbed the "Swiss gigolo" by the German media. (Some readers are probably skeptical of the notion of a "Swiss gigolo." I always thought the Swiss expressed their passions through cheese with holes, cuckoo clocks and designing a secret banking system. Clearly, I have much to learn about the Alpine country.)

Getting back to Klatten, her story took so many twists and turns that it's bound to be turned into a Hollywood movie. I can see Meryl Streep playing the role of the 47-year-old married mother of three who makes bad choices -- lots of them.

First was her choice of paramour. According to the Associated Press, Sgarbi conned the heiress out of seven million euros by telling her it was for payments to a girl who became a paraplegic after being hit with his car. Sgarbi also threatened to release the tapes unless Klatten gave him millions more. He was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud.

His motivation for targeting Klatten may have been highly personal, according to the U.K.'s Independent.

"He is also said to be a man bent on exacting revenge for the crimes of BMW against his father, a Polish Jew and, during the war, a slave laborer in a BMW factory," the paper said.

Apparently, three men in Germany also hit up Klatten for money. They appear to be just garden-variety crooks with no connection to Sgarbi. The men, who have been arrested, had demanded 800,000 euros ($1.1 million) and a BMW X5 sport utility vehicle. Prosecutors said the men did not even have the tapes, according to the AP. The really bizarre thing is that it is not the first time it's happened since Sgarbi went to prison.

"In March, a 50-year-old German with multiple previous convictions, tried to extract euro 75,000 from Klatten claiming that he had met Sgarbi in prison and could obtain the videos for her," he said. "He was arrested at a bakery in the city of Bochum, where he had asked that the money be left."

The lessons here are many but they boil down to one truth parents teach their children when they are young: Money does not buy happiness. Too bad Klatten did figure this out until it was too late.

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