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Posted: Thursday April 2, 2009 9:42 AM

Steaua owner detained by police over kidnapping

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -Steaua Bucharest chairman Gigi Becali was detained by police on Thursday and questioned about the alleged assault and kidnapping of three men who had previously stolen his car.

Bucharest police said Becali and six employees attacked the three men in January, surrounding their vehicle and threatening them with guns before bundling them into the trunk of a car. The three men were then allegedly driven to a village outside Bucharest and left there, police said.

Becali and the other six men were detained for a 24-hour period, and prosecutors are asking for a warrant to keep him in custody for 29 days.

Becali has said the charges are a setup, claiming that the men had stolen his $162,000 (?120,000) Mercedes and were trying to extort money for its return. He said they had also asked for hush money in exchange for not telling police about the supposed kidnapping.

Becali is a colorful figure in Romania, known for his verbal outbursts and frequent appearances on television shows. In December he fired Turkish coach Yuksel Yesilova, saying that as a Muslim he brought bad luck to Steaua, a Christian team.

Steaua was penalized in June by the football federation after a match-fixing investigation alleged Becali offered $2.3 million (?1.7 million) to a rival team to lose the last match of the Romanian league and help Steaua win the title.

Becali formerly headed a political party which failed to muster enough votes to get into Parliament.

Becali has been chairman of Steaua Bucharest since 2000.

 
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