Police arrest man in food blackmail plot

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A British man is due to appear before an Austrian court today in connection with an alleged blackmail plot to extort pounds 250,000 from five leading food companies by threatening to contaminate their products with bacteria.

Detectives revealed last night a 37-year-old man was arrested yesterday morning when he arrived at a bank in Vienna to collect money from an account.

The man, who runs a computer technology firm in Nottinghamshire, has not been named. His wife and a male relative, both in their 40s, have been arrested in the Nottingham area.

An international police hunt was launched when the five firms received an alleged blackmail demand from an extortionist within a day of each other. Commander Roy Ramm, head of Scotland Yard's organised crime unit, revealed details of the police operation last night after a five-week news blackout.

The letters are alleged to have contained a threat to contaminate some of the firms' products unless they agreed to meet ransom demands.

The blackmailer is said to have threatened to contaminate foodstuffs with two bacterial organisms which would have caused serious sickness.

Commander Ramm, who co-ordinated an inquiry by several police forces, said: "At the time we decided not to disclose the details of the products or the organisms involved.

"This was a fine balance but we judged that the public's right to know had to be measured against the risk level and our efforts to reduce that risk by arresting those involved."