German authorities said Monday they had arrested a father and son on suspicion of trying to blackmail the family of the former Formula One driver Michael Schumacher.

The suspects contacted family representatives claiming to have files the Schumachers "would not want to have published", prosecutors in the western German city of Wuppertal said in a statement.

"To stop the files being published online, the perpetrators demanded a payment in the millions," the prosecutors said.

The suspects transferred "individual files" to the family to show they had access to sensitive documents, prosecutors said. 

The seven-time world champion has not been seen in public since he suffered a serious brain injury in a 2013 skiing accident in the French Alps.

Investigators in Germany were tipped off about the case by authorities in Switzerland, where Schumacher has been cared for at the family home since the accident.

"Technical measures" made it possible to trace the alleged extortionists to Wuppertal, they said.

The two suspects, who were on probation in another case, were arrested by police on June 19 in a supermarket parking lot in Gross-Gerau, south of Frankfurt, prosecutors said.

Authorities searched eight properties, as well as the main residences of the suspects, seizing "several data storage devices".

"Extensive investigations" into the case were still ongoing, they said. 

If convicted, the suspects face a prison sentence of up to five years, the prosecutors said.

Schumacher's family last month won a legal action against a German tabloid magazine which printed a fake AI interview with the 55-year-old German former race driver.

Magazine Die Aktuelle had in April 2023 claimed it had an interview with the motorsport legend but the article in fact contained quotes which had been computer-generated.

German tabloid Bild reported that Schumacher's family was awarded 200,000 euros ($220,000) in compensation for the claim. 



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