A conman who defrauded Germany’s richest woman is claimed to have targeted his victim because of her family’s Nazi past.
Helg Sgarbi, dubbed the Swiss Gigolo, was last week jailed for six years for defrauding and attempting to blackmail Susanne Klatten with a videotape of the couple having sex in a hotel.
Ms Klatten, the 68th wealthiest person in the world, is an heir to the BMW fortune and is thought to be worth almost $10 billion.
Her great-grandfather, Gunther Quandt, founded BMW and his first wife, Magda, later married Joseph Goebbels.
Sgarbi’s father was allegedly Polish Jew forced to work as a slave labourer in a BMW factory during the war.
It was under police questioning that his alleged accomplice, Ernano Barretta, claimed Sgarbi had targeted Ms Klatten in an attempt to exact revenge for his father’s treatment.
Sgarbi had told his victims he was working for the Swiss Government as a secret agent. The pair met at a luxury spa in Innsbruck, Austria, during the summer of 2007.
Ms Klatten told police Sgarbi had been “charming and attentive” and she felt they had something in common. A month after that first meeting they arranged to see each other in a hotel room at a Holiday Inn in Munich. What Ms Klatten did not know was that they were being filmed from the neighbouring room.
The man behind the camera was 63-year-old Ernano Barretta, said to be the head of a sect with links to the Italian mafia. Arrested by police in connection with fraud and extortion cases, Barretta claimed Sgarbi had targeted Ms Klatten in an attempt to exact revenge for the family’s Nazi links.
Interviewers and historians attempting to examine the Quandts’ past were stonewalled until two years ago, when a German TV documentary provided fresh evidence of the use of slave labour. A former prisoner told how he had been whipped and forced to drink water from a toilet at a Quandt factory.
The question of whether or not Sgarbi’s father was really a Polish Jew provided fodder for antisemitic cyber-chatter. On German language websites, they blame Sgarbi for spreading what they called a “holohoax” and called him a “quarter-Jewish Holocaust-Lover”.