Monday, April 27, 2009

Gigi Becali

George Becali (commonly known in Romania as Gigi Becali, born 25 June, 1958) is a controversial Romanian politician and businessman, mostly known for his involvement in the Steaua football club.
He was born in Zagna, Vadeni, Braila County , as his family was deported to the Baragan by the Communist
authorities because of their associations with the pre-WWII fascist Iron Guard .
His cousins, Victor Becali and Ioan Becali, are also involved in Romanian football. In 1994, he married Luminita, 11 years his junior; the couple have three daughters: Teodora (b. 1996), Alexandra (b. 1997) and Cristina (b. 2001).
After the 2005 floods , he funded with $4 million the rebuilding of about 200 houses in the Vulturu village  that was destroyed by the overflow of the Siret river. Subsequently the villagers wanted to rename it Vulturu Becali in his honor.
Real estate business

Becali became a millionaire through an exchange of land with the Romanian Army, dubbed by the Romanian press as suspicious, as the Army did not need the land it received and the land he received was worth much more. The deal consisted in Becali giving the army a 21.5 ha plot in Ştefăneştii de Jos (about 15 km from Bucharest) in exchange for a 20.9 ha plot in Băneasa-Pipera, in Northern Bucharest.As the real estate prices skyrocketed in the capital, he sold the land to some companies which built residential areas.
In 2007, it was revealed that in 1998, when Becali sent the offer to the Romanian Army, he was not the owner of the property in Ştefăneştii de Jos, buying it only after it was clear that the deal would be signed. Also, the Army was not legally allowed to give away the Pipera plot, because it was claimed by former owners.The affair was investigated in 2006 by the National Anticorruption Directorate (NAD). In July 2007, the NAD started to investigate a transaction between Becali and the daughter of Defence Minister Victor Babiuc, involving land in Pipera which was sold for $300/sqm.

Ownership of Steaua

Becali joined the General Shareholders' Council of the FC Steaua Bucharest football team at the end of the 1990s, during the presidency of businessman Viorel Păunescu. Step by step, he tried to eliminate other possible candidates and gather all the Club's shares. He obtained 51% of the shares on 6 February 2003 and he bought another 15% toward the end of the year 2003.
On October 17, 2005, his entire fortune was impounded by the National Fiscal Authority (ANAF) for debts totaling US$ 11,000,000. However, Becali sued the ANAF and won the trial, and subsequently the order of seizure was lifted.He was however able to avoid paying the taxes by transferring the assets of Steaua to a newly-formed company, AFC Steaua Bucureşti, allowing the old association to go bankrupt.As of 2007, Becali detains no official link to the club, as he gradually renounced his shares in favour of his nephews.
In 2005, the papers wrote that he commissioned a painting inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, in which he holds the place of Jesus, while the eleven players and the coach hold the place of the disciples. Becali denied the story, claiming that he received the painting from an admirer.
Other business activities

Becali announced in 2008 that he intends to open his own bank, named "Becali Bank", intended to be used "only by millionaires", with an initial investment of 30 million euro. Nevertheless, the Administration Council of the National Bank of Romania rejected the plan of creation without giving a public reason.Cotidianul notes that the National Bank can reject the creation of a new bank if they suspect that the new bank would not respect the laws or that they won't have solid and prudent investment policies.
In reply to this decision, Becali named Mugur Isărescu, the governor of the National Bank, "a buffoon, a frustrated and envious person" and announced that he intends to sue him.
Political career
In the 2000 Romanian legislative election, Gigi Becali has been a candidate of the "League of Italian Communities in Romania" for the seat in the Chamber of Deputies reserved to the Italian minority. He received 16,266 votes (0.15%) countrywide, of which 7,677 in Ilfov County. Nevertheless, he lost to Ileana Stana-Ionescu, who got only 2,943 votes in one constituency. Becali contested the results, but according to Romanian election law, for national minorities, it doesn't matter the total number of votes, but only the person who gains the largest percentage in one constituency gets the seat reserved for that national minority.
He has led the New Generation – Christian Democrat Party (PNG-CD) since January 2004, being its candidate in the 2004 presidential elections, receiving 1.77% of the votes cast (184,560 votes).
In his 2004 electoral campaign, Becali used clips of the "Mihai Viteazul" movie (directed by Sergiu Nicolaescu), whose main character was played by Amza Pellea. Amza's daughter, Oana Pellea, sued Becali for using Amza Pellea's image without permission and won 35,000 RON (about $12,000) in damages.
He often had disputes with Corneliu Vadim Tudor, another extremist politician. These disputes, usually consisted of exchanges of insults between the two.] He had another dispute with Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu whom he named a "cockroach-politician" and a "Very Important Papagal" (papagal means "parrot" in Romanian and is regarded as an insult).
In December 2006, he promised that his party would generate a "Cultural revolution" in Romania.
At the elections for the European Parliament, held in November 2007, his party (PNG-CD) obtained 4,86% of the popular vote, little under the 5% needed for admission in the EU governing body. Same happened at the elections from December 2008, as a surprise to many people.
Views on homosexuality

In line with his conservative Orthodox Christian views, Becali has often made inflammatory remarks in the press regarding LGBT people. During his 2004 presidential campaign one of the main themes of his rhetoric was opposition to sexual minorities, which he voiced over and over in interviews and TV appearances.
On May 26, 2006, Becali's personal foundation, the "George Becali Christian Foundation", along with the Romanian Orthodox Church and 22 NGOs, signed a protest letter calling on the government and the courts to ban the Bucharest GayFest 2006 parade, focussed that year on the theme of same-sex unions. A few days later, the Bucharest Court of Appeals ruled, however, that the parade was legal, and it was ensured significant police protection. Becali justified his opposition to the pride parade by stating that he "doesn't discriminate against homosexuals" but that, "They abuse their rights. This is proselytism. They can do what they want in their homes, but not on the streets. I call on the Romanian Orthodox Church to defend the Christian faith and morals. Becali declared that he intended to pay for a referendum on same-sex marriage, which he believed 99% of people would vote against. He was also widely criticized in the media for asking, "Why [are there] so many homosexuals? I'll give two or five million dollars [for a referendum], so we can finish off all homosexuals in the country."
The media commentator Dan Tapalagă, in an editorial at the Cotidianul newspaper, criticized the Romanian Orthodox Church for its coalition with Becali, and its opposition to the gay pride parade, which he sarcastically termed as "the sin of the Becalised Church".
In an opinion piece written after Becali's inflammatory declaration, journalist Radu Călin Cristea quoted Cristian Pârvulescu, a Romanian political analyst, who described Becali as a "populist who practices a superficial form of legionarism", referring to the fascist Iron Guard movement which took place in 1930s Romania and whose members were named "legionnaires" (legionari). Cristea also warned that society and the political class should stop regarding Becali as an "inoffensive and amusing clown".
In October 2006, Gigi Becali was awarded the LGBT community's "black ball" for the most homophobic personality in Romania, as part of the 2006 Gay Awards Gala which took place during the Gay Film Nights Festival of Cluj-Napoca.
During Bucharest's annual GayFest in June 2007, Becali seemed to have tempered his homophobic stance. He declared in an interview that "I love them [homosexuals] in the same way that I love all other people. They can marry at the City Hall, every day, 10 of them if they want to. But in church, they don't have a place."When questioned about homosexuality in another interview conducted during the 2007 GayFest, he stated, "They can do what they want... marry... I don't have anything against that". On the question of whether he would accept a gay person in the New Generation Party of which he is president, Becali replied "But why would I have a problem with that? Who knows how many there already are?"
In September 2007, he resumed his homophobic speech, stating that if he becomes president of Romania, he will "get rid of all homosexual and lesbian clubs" and create special neighbourhoods for homosexuals and lesbians, so that "they can stay there and leave us [alone]". He also referred to gays as "sinners" and said that "they should go to the priest if they have problems in their head". The secretary-general of the New Generation Party, Cătălin Dâncu, later appeared to distance himself from Becali's comments, declaring that, "As long as EU principles clearly state that minority rights must be respected, Romania as a member-state must respect them". Romania's National Council for Combating Discrimination is investigating whether Becali's comments breach anti-discrimination and hate speech laws, stating that he could be fined up to 8000 lei (~€2500).

In February 2002, Becali cursed and threatened Cristian Tudor Popescu, a well-known journalist, in a café, after the latter had written the article "O statuie pentru Puiu Paşcu" ("A Statue for Puiu Paşcu" - a former Minister of Defense in the Social Democratic Party cabinet of Adrian Năstase) in Adevărul about the controversial land swap with the Army and the assault on Malonga Parfait. Becali told Popescu that he should have been shot and that the journalists destroyed Romania.
In 2005, Becali provoked controversy by using extremely vulgar language in an interview, insulting the reporter and the channel he worked for (Antena 1).
In July 2005, in a restaurant, Becali cursed, spat and spilled a glass of wine on Şerban Huidu, the creator of the satirical TV show "Cronica Cârcotaşilor". Becali got the nickname "Ioan Botezătorul" (John the Baptist) after this incident.
Following a match of FC Steaua in April 2006, his bodyguards used violence against a female reporter of Realitatea TV after Becali asked them to "take her away from that place".
He currently is one of the favorite subjects of the Romanian media, due to his frequent slips of the tongue and inflammatory remarks. For example, in July 2005, a reporter called Becali to ask him some questions related to the Steaua football club. Becali used this opportunity to unleash a flurry of curses addressed to Antena 1 and Dan Voiculescu. He himself said in the dialogue that "he is not a civilized man".
In 2008, he admited that when he lost money in a casino, he lost his temper and began throwing chairs toward the windows, breaking them.
 In 3.04.2009 Romanian football club Steaua owner Gigi Becali was placed under 29-day preventive arrest Friday morning in the case regarding the alleged kidnapping of three people who stole Becali’s car in January this year.
After a trial that lasted more than five hours, the judges of the Bucharest District 1 Court decided to uphold prosecutors’ request to place Becali and other four people under preventive arrest.
Soon after the court pronounced its verdict, Becali's lawyer Gheorghe Mateut, as well as the defendants of Catalin Zmarandescu, Stefan Dediu, Nicolae Dumitrascu and Dumitru Beciu, appealed the ruling, while one of the culprits started to curse and air threats.
Mateut deemed the court’s ruling abusive and stressed that prosecutors presented irrelevant evidence to incriminate Becali, namely, phone conversations which, according to Mateut, fail to prove Becali’s involvement in the kidnapping.
Soon after the court’s ruling, Becali’s cronies started to encourage him and said all Romanians are on his side. Six people were heard Thursday in connection with this case and Becali’s properties were thoroughly searched by police officers.
According to police officers investigating the case, in January this year, three people were dashed into the trunk of a car in the middle of the night, taken to a residence in Pipera, near Bucharest, and detained for nearly three hours for allegedly stealing Becali’s car, which he had left open and with keys in the ignition outside a bar.

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