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Coca-Cola director kidnapped in Brazil

By HUGO COYA

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- The director of five Coca-Cola plants in Brazil has been kidnapped by a band of criminals and is being held for $2.5 million ranson, police said Tuesday.

Corinne Coffin, 46, a Brazilian woman with American-born parents, was kidnapped May 28, but it was only recently made public because the kidnappers had told the victim's family to keep it quiet, said Commissioner Otavio Seiler, head of the police department's organized crime division.

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Coffin's car was intercepted at gunpoint a half mile from the bridge that links Rio with the city of Niteroi, across the Guanabara Bay, shortly after she had visited one of the five Coca-Cola plants she heads, police said.

Her chauffeur, Claudio da Silva, apparently tried to flee but was forced to stop after one of them fired a shot at the car.

The car was found by police Monday morning, parked near a Rio beach.

The kidnappers had asked for $20 million at first but reduced their price to $2.5 million during their last phone call to the victim's family Sunday night, Seiler said.

Police suspect Coffin and da Silva are being held in the Rio de Janeiro but raids of various neighborhoods have turned up nothing.

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Coffin directs five of 80 bottling and distributing plants in Brazil under franchises to the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co.

Coca-Cola controls some 58.3 percent of the soft-drink market in Brazil, according to industry figures.

Coca-Cola officials declined comment on the kidnapping.

The kidnapping is the latest in a wave of abductions that have terrified wealthy business executives nationwide. Since June of 1990, 12 people, most of them businessmen and industrialists or their family members, have been kidnapped in Rio de Janeiro alone. They were later freed after their families paid ransoms ranging from $49,000 to $2.5 million.

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