Jewish Television Owner in Brazil at Center of Riveting Hostage Drama

The Jewish owner of Brazil’s second largest TV channel kissed his mezuzah and thanked God after being held hostage for seven hours by a man who previously had kidnapped the media mogul’s daughter.

Silvio Santos — born Senor Abravanel — was freed last week after police and the governor of Sao Paulo state, Geraldo Alckimin, convinced Fernando Dutra, 22, to surrender.

Two days earlier, Dutra had released Patricia Abravanel, 25, one of Santos’ seven daughters, after a week in captivity for a ransom of $200,000.

Upon the girl’s release, father and daughter appeared in television interviews, happy and smiling.

Dutra had been on the run since releasing Abravanel in late August. When police closed in on him in a Sao Paulo suburb, Dutra killed two policemen in a shoot- out and escaped by climbing down the side of a hotel building.

He went to Santos’ mansion, allegedly to ask for mercy and Santos’ protection from the police. Climbing over the electrified fence of the house in Morumbi, one of the wealthiest areas of Sao Paulo city, he found Santos, 70, in his gym room.

Armed with two guns, Dutra took Santos captive for the next seven hours, but let the other members of the family leave the house in their pajamas and bathrobes.

Santos, who owns the Sistema Brasileiro de Televisao station, is one of the country’s best-known presenters, is famous nationwide as host of the Brazilian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Unlike many wealthy Brazilians, however, Santos and his family drive their own car, and do not use bodyguards. His sister Sara was kidnapped in 1992.

Santos, who raised his children Catholic, contributes financially to the city’s Jewish community but has little other involvement. Recently he bought Sao Paulo’s Old Sephardic Synagogue, where he used to pray on the High Holidays, planning to build a shopping center on the site.

Though no Jews live in that part of the city center any more, Santos reportedly paid three times more than the value of the building –more than a million dollars — so the congregation could build a new temple in a better neighborhood.

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