NY tycoon freed after 12 days buried alive: Elderly tuxedo millionaire, kidnapped for dollars 3m, greets rescuers with request for a cigarette

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The Independent Online
POLICE in the United States were last night holding three suspected kidnappers after a dirt-covered millionaire businessman was rescued from a pit in which he had been buried alive for 12 days.

Authorities said Harvey Weinstein, 68, chief executive of the nation's largest manufacturer of tuxedos, was kept in a 14ft-deep hole in a marshalling yard in Manhattan while his kidnappers bargained for a dollars 3m ( pounds 2.1m) ransom. Detectives said Mr Weinstein, founder and head of Lord West Inc, survived on bananas, plums and water supplied by his captors.

The kidnappers dangled a tape-recorder and a cellular phone into his makeshift, pear- shaped dungeon so that he could transmit messages appealing for his ransom to be paid.

Last night he was recovering from his ordeal, which has caused amazement throughout the US, a country usually hardened to ugly and exotic crimes. When he was discovered, he emerged from the hole with his face and hair caked in soot and grime. But he was grinning broadly. 'Thank God you're here,' he told his rescuers. 'I'd like to have a cigarette.' He was released from hospital after a three-hour check-up.

Police said Mr Weinstein was kidnapped on 4 August somewhere between the Mark Twain diner where he always took breakfast and his office a mile away. He was taken to a wooded ravine on Manhattan's Upper West Side, near the Hudson River, and lowered into the pit in a remote part of the marshalling yard.

The dungeon measured 4ft by 5ft and was covered with a metal door, pieces of wood, a concrete block and several inches of camouflaging soil. His kidnappers had made holes in the covering, allowing him to breathe. 'He was literally buried alive,' said John Hill, a detective.

Police say that a day after the kidnapping the abductors made a call to the president of Mr Weinstein's company, demanding dollars 3m and identifying themselves as the 'Black Cat organisation'. It was the first of 50 calls from the captors, who supplied four photographs of their prey and a tape-recorded message to his family in which he said: 'I love you . . . get the money.'

As negotiations proceeded, the kidnappers allegedly twice arranged to pick up their ransom but did not show up. On Monday Mr Weinstein's son finally delivered the money to a park, where it was seized by one of the alleged abductors, before another arrived to pick it up by car.

After three hours, despite promises from the kidnappers, Mr Weinstein was not released. Police and FBI agents moved in on the suspects and arrested them before going to the yard to unearth their captive. They knew the general area of the cell, but only found Mr Weinstein when they heard him yelling: 'Here I am, here I am.'

The suspects include two brothers, one of whom had worked for Mr Weinstein for eight years sewing trousers for tuxedos. The third person arrested to face kidnapping charges is the wife of one of the men. The ransom, bundles of dollars 100 and dollars 50 bills in a duffel bag, was later found by police.

(Photograph omitted)