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German prosecutors: Suspect used poison threats as blackmail

Uwe Stuermer from the Konstanz police department, left, and prosecutor Alexander Boger speak during a press conference in Konstanz, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. German authorities have arrested a man suspected of making threats to poison supermarket food unless a large payment was made. Police and prosecutors in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said the man arrested Friday is "urgently suspected" of attempted blackmail. (Felix Kaestle/dpa via AP)
September 30, 2017 - 9:35 AM

BERLIN - German authorities said Saturday they are confident that a 53-year-old man arrested a day earlier is behind a blackmail attempt that saw jars of poisoned baby food placed on store shelves in southern Germany.

Prosecutors said investigators found the same poison — ethylene glycol, a compound used in antifreeze — when they arrested the man Friday near the southwestern city of Tuebingen.

Chief prosecutor Alexander Boger told a news conference in Konstanz, on Germany's southern border, that the man hadn't confessed but the evidence against him was substantial.

DNA found on the baby food jars and pictures taken with a supermarket surveillance camera also pointed to the suspect, who wasn't identified due to German privacy rules, prosecutors said.

Authorities and companies received an email this month threatening to poison unspecified food at German retailers inside the country and beyond unless more than 10 million euros ($11.8 million) was paid by Saturday.

The blackmailer alerted authorities that five jars of baby food at shops in Friedrichshafen, near Konstanz, had been tampered with. Officials located the jars and found they contained ethylene glycol but said there's no evidence that anyone was poisoned.

Authorities released surveillance camera stills of the suspect Thursday, prompting hundreds of tips from the public.

Officials said they believe all of the contaminated food has been found but warned shoppers to remain alert to any possible signs of product manipulation.

If convicted, the man could face between five and 15 years in prison for extortion under threat of force. Prosecutors said, however, they may charge him with attempted homicide, which could entail a life sentence.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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