Ecclestone opens up on ‘embarrassing’ ordeal in Brazil

Bernie Ecclestone was fined at a Brazilian airport for carrying an unregistered gun in his suitcase.

Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone insists that he was not arrested in Brazil, and affirms that the offence he committed was not registering his gun as opposed to possessing it.

Ecclestone was about to catch a flight from Brazil to Switzerland earlier in the week, but as he was going through airport security, they picked up on a gun that he had accidentally packed in his luggage.

The 91-year-old got the small firearm in 2016 when his mother-in-law was kidnapped, and the presence of it in the airport raised several eyebrows, but he affirms that it was no more than that.

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“No, I wasn’t arrested, I was questioned,” he said, quoted by PA News.

“I had a small, tiny little handgun, like a woman carries in her handbag in case someone tries to jump them.

“I got it from somebody years ago, a mechanic in Formula One, who said it is good to carry in your pocket in Brazil because they are mugging people all the time out there, and you can say bugger off.

“It has no bullets or anything, and it was just a show-thing. Whether it would have worked or not, I don’t know because it has never happened to me. I only ever had it in the house and I have never walked around with it.”

The former Brabham team owner revealed that he had been messing around with the unloaded gun at home, and he packed the shirt he had put the gun into by mistake.

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“But I was mucking about with it at home, jokingly pretending to arrest somebody, and then I took my shirt off,” added Ecclestone.

“I left my things to be packed and that shirt was packed in with my luggage.

“When we got to the airport, I was asked to come to immigration because they had scanned our luggage and they said it looks like there is a gun.

“They said we won’t open anything until you are there. I arrived, we opened the bag, we all looked through the luggage, we couldn’t find it, and eventually we found it.

“I told them what it was and they said now we have got a problem because it has to be reported.

“The gun is legal in Brazil but where they were upset is that it is not registered. The offence was not having the gun but that it wasn’t registered.”

The Briton was fined 6,000 reals, which is just under £1,000, but he was eventually allowed to leave after a “friendly” but “embarrassing” experience.

“We spent forever trying to sort it out to report things, and by then the airport was closed, and we couldn’t leave until five in the morning [on Thursday] so I spent a pleasant few hours with the police.

“But it was all very friendly, very nice and there were lots of Formula One enthusiasts to speak to.

“They wouldn’t take dollars so it had to be local currency and it was 6,000 reals which was nothing.

“It was all very embarrassing for everybody – a lot of aggravation for nothing.”

Ecclestone was eventually allowed to leave the country, and he is currently in Portugal.