German police arrest suspect over alleged supermarket extortion attempts

German police probe threat to poison baby food products

This German 55 years of age who weigh a "strong suspicion" was arrested by the special forces in Baden-Württemberg, land border with Alsace, has announced in a joint press release from the prosecutor's office Ravensbourg and the police of Constance, the cities located in the south-west of Germany.

The threat was deemed to be credible because the police and stores threatened had received an email warning that a certain number of jars of poisoned baby food had been placed in specific locations.

The accused extortionist's DNA was found on the contaminated jars, and pictures taken by a supermarket surveillance camera matched the suspect.

Prosecutors say the alleged blackmailer had told authorities he had tampered with five jars of baby food on shop shelves in southern Germany.

A state consumer protection ministry official said the substance detected was ethylene glycol, used in anti-freeze products and brake fluids, which is toxic, and fatal in large quantities.

The man appeared to be in his fifties, of average height, and was wearing glasses and a hat.

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"We are taking the threat very seriously", Konstanz deputy chief of police Uwe Stuermer said in a news conference. The suspect's name was withheld under German privacy laws.

Authorities have searched through food for sale, but warned identifying contaminated items is challenging.

They said that while there was no need to panic, shoppers should remain vigilant.

Boger said the man could face five to 15 years in prison if found guilty of extortion.

Earlier this month, police received an emailed threat to distribute 20 types of poisoned foodstuffs into supermarkets across Germany and overseas if they did not pay a sum believed to top €10 million ($12 million).

He may also be charged with attempted homicide, which could land him in jail for life.

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