Abílio dos Santos Diniz
(born December 28 1936
in São Paulo
) is chairman and former owner of the Brazilian
retail chain Companhia Brasileira de Distribuiçao, and victim of a famous kidnapping
ranked Diniz as the 605th wealthiest person in the world in 2006, with a net worth of USD 2.0 billion.
Abílio Diniz is the father of former Formula One
driver Pedro Diniz
, and Abílio also competed as a racecar driver in his youth and won 1970 Mil Milhas Brasil
with his brother, Alcides.
Diniz's family founded the company Pão de Açúcar, which grew into a major retailer, Companhia Brasileira de Distribuiçao. In 2002, Diniz sold a large stake to the French
company Casino for an estimated US 860 million and stepped down as CEO, but he remains as company chairman.
In December 1989, Diniz was the victim of a sensational political kidnapping by Sandinista
-trained terrorists in Brazil
, followed by a police rescue. He was confined for six days in a small space under a house, with a duct leading to the kitchen fan as his only source of oxygen.
During the rescue, police arrested two young Canadians in the house, Christine Lamont and David Spencer. Lamont and Spencer were sentenced to 28 years in prison for their involvement, but were kept in private cells, away from the mass of the prison population. Both protested their innocence, and the Canadian press and public started a major movement to secure their release, straining relations between Brazil and Canada. However, two Canadian investigative journalists, Isabel Vincent of the Globe and Mail and Caroline Mallan of the Toronto Star, wrote books concluding that Lamont and Spencer were likely guilty, and they there were being treated well by Brazilian authorities. Lamont confessed to involvement in the kidnapping, which was meant to raise money for Sandinista guerillas, and the two were released and deported to Canada in 1996.
- Isabel Vincent, See no evil. Reed Books Canada, 1996.
- Caroline Mallan, Wrong time, wrong place? Key Porter Books, 1996.