Former Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone was arrested at an airport in Brazil after security officers found an unlicensed handgun in his luggage, but he released shortly after on bail, media reports and police said on Thursday.
The British magnate was detained on Wednesday night on his way to board a flight at Viracopos International Airport outside Sao Paulo, local media reported.
Police did not confirm Mr Ecclestone's arrest, but said an unnamed “businessman” had been detained after officers found a silver .32-calibre L W Seecamp pistol in his luggage during security screening.
The gun was unloaded and did not have a magazine, police said in a statement.
“Federal agents brought the man in for questioning … He was charged with carrying a firearm in contravention of the law,” they said.
He was granted provisional release after paying bail of 6,060 reais (about $1,250), they added.
News site G1 said Mr Ecclestone then boarded a private plane and left for Switzerland, where he moved after being ousted as F1 head in 2017.
Mr Ecclestone told police he was unaware the gun was in his luggage, G1 reported. He said he had bought it about five years ago from an F1 mechanic.
If convicted of illegally carrying a firearm, Mr Ecclestone could face a prison term of up to four years.
Mr Ecclestone, who is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, had been in Brazil for about a month, media reports said.
The larger-than-life, famously autocratic businessman transformed F1 into a global multibillion-dollar commercial giant during his four decades at the helm, before being replaced as chief executive of the Formula One Group five years ago.
A fisherman's son and one-time second-hand car dealer, he has an estimated family fortune of $3 billion, according to Forbes magazine.