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Thursday, May 04, 2006

STILL Doing it: The Times refers to Paladini as "A former Italian football international ...who used to play for Juventus and Napoli..""

The Times

QPR director 'forced to resign at gunpoint'By Philippe Naughton
David Morris is accused of organising the intimidation of the QPR chairman (Jack Hill/The Times)

A former Italian football international was forced at gunpoint to sign a letter resigning from the board of Queens Park Rangers in a scene like "something out of a gangster film," a court heard today.
Gianni Paladini, who used to play for Juventus and Napoli, was asked if he could "have a word" by David Morris, a fellow director, as the men prepared to watch the Championship club's first home game of this season.
But he soon found himself surrounded by hired thugs and forced to write out a resignation letter, London’s Blackfriars Crown Court was told.
David Williams, QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "I don’t know whether some of you watch television and see The Sopranos. This is like something out of a gangster film.
"It was against this scenario that Gianni Paladini was forced to write his own letter of resignation. He was shouted at, slapped and punched by the group until he complied. He had no means of escape and terrified for his safety did as he was told."
Mr Williams added: "It wasn’t the sort of share or boardroom struggle that you might expect in business papers or newspapers.Quite literally, a gun was produced and possibly another held to the head of Gianni Paladini."
At the time of the incident at QPR’s Loftus Road ground on August 13 last year, Mr Paladini, a former Fifa-accredited agent, owned a 14.7-per cent sake in the club, the court heard. He has since become its chairman.
While he was being held, the court heard, the club chairman Bill Power, who was aware that "something untoward" was occurring, went to find out what was happening but was blocked by a group of men who claimed to be acting "on the chairman’s orders".
Mr Power told them: "I am the f***ing chairman", but he was still not allowed to pass.
The court heard that Mr Paladini who had been asked to quit his position on the board of directors and surrender his shares, eventually managed to break free from his captors and ran screaming from them.
A member of catering staff was said to have called out of an open window to alert the police. Armed officers burst into Mr Morris’s executive box shortly after half-time in the game with Sheffield United and arrested him along with fellow defendants Andy Baker, Barry Powell, Aaron Lacey and John McFarlane.
In the executive box they found a screwed-up piece of paper apparently written by Mr Paladini in shaky handwriting as well as two bundles of cash totalling £7,000 which the Crown suggested were "wages for the heavies’ day work".
Earlier, two other defendants David Davenport and Michael Reynolds were arrested walking away from the ground.
Mr Williams said that Mr Baker was a security consultant who provided "muscle" for Mr Morris. All seven deny conspiracy to blackmail, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear or violence.
Mr Williams told the court: "It may well be that Gianni Paladini had ruffled a few feathers since acquiring his shares in QPR and one of those he had upset appears to have been David Morris, recently appointed to the board himself, having lent financial support to the club’s ailing finances over a number of years.
"It seems that the catalyst, triggered perhaps, for the events of August 13th was the culmination of a number of disputes over how the club’s affairs were being managed as a result of which David Morris, rightly or wrongly, perceived that Paladini had made threats against himself and his family over the telephone during an argument with someone else.
"Whatever the reasons, by August 13 last year, there were those at QPR who wanted Gianni Paladini out and the chief amongst those people was David Morris."


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