Gigi Becali

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George Becali
George Becali.JPG
Member of the European Parliament
for Romania
In office
14 July 2009 – 18 December 2012
Succeeded by Dan Zamfirescu
Personal details
Born (1958-06-25) June 25, 1958 (age 56)
Zagna, Vădeni, Brăila, Romania
Nationality Romanian
Political party New Generation – Christian Democrat Party (until 2012)
National Liberal Party (2012-2013)
Residence Voluntari, Ilfov County
Occupation Entrepreneur and politician
Religion Orthodox Christian
Nickname(s) Gigi

George Becali (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈd͡ʒe̯ord͡ʒe beˈkali], commonly known in Romania as Gigi Becali; born 25 June 1958) is a controversial Romanian politician and businessman, mostly known for his ownership of the Steaua Bucureşti football club.

He was a Member of the European Parliament between June 2009 and December 2012 and a Member of the Romanian Parliament since December 2012 up until his conviction in May 2013.

Biography[edit]

He was born in an Aromanian family in Zagna, Vădeni, Brăila County, as his family had been deported to the Bărăgan by the Communist authorities because of their associations with the pre-WWII fascist Iron Guard.

During childhood and adolescence, Becali was a supporter of the Dinamo Bucharest football club. His cousins Victor Becali and Ioan Becali are football agents involved in Romanian football mainly for Dinamo Bucharest. In 1994, he married Luminiţa, 11 years younger than him; they have three daughters: Teodora (b. 1995), Alexandra (b. 1996) and Cristina (b. 2001).

Entrepreneurship[edit]

Real estate business[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2]

The affair was investigated in 2006 by the National Anticorruption Directorate (NAD).[3] 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.[4]

Ownership of Steaua[edit]

Becali joined the General Shareholders' Council of the Steaua Bucureşti 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] As of 2007, Becali detains no official link to the club, as he gradually renounced his shares in favour of his nephews.[8]

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.[9] Becali denied the story, claiming that he received the painting from an admirer.

Other business activities[edit]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[11]

Political career[edit]

At the 2000 Romanian legislative election, Becali was a candidate of the "League of Italian Communities in Romania" for the seat in the Chamber of Deputies reserved for 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 is not the total number of votes that matters; the individual who gains the largest percentage in one constituency wins the seat reserved for that national minority.[12]

He has led the New Generation – Christian Democrat Party (PNG-CD) since January 2004, being its candidate in the 2004 presidential election, receiving 1.77% of votes cast (184,560 votes).[13]

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.[14]

He often had disputes with Corneliu Vadim Tudor, another extremist politician. These disputes, usually consisted of exchanges of insults between the two.[15] 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).[16]

In December 2006, he promised that his party would generate a "Cultural revolution" in Romania.[17]

At the elections for the European Parliament, held in November 2007, his party (PNG-CD) obtained 4.86% of the popular vote, just under the 5% needed for admission in the EU governing body. The same happened in the December 2008 elections, which came as a surprise to many people.

At the June 2009 European Parliament election, Becali ran on Vadim's Greater Romania Party ticket and won a seat in the European Parliament.[18] However, on June 9, Romanian judges upheld a travel ban on Becali for the duration of an illegal incarceration investigation by police, banning him from taking his seat in the EP; Becali retorted that he intended to take his seat in Brussels and dared the justice system to arrest him in Belgium.[19] Eventually, the Romanian supreme court lifted all restrictions on him.[20]

He also ran in the 2009 presidential elections where he got 1.91% of the vote.[21]

In 2012, he was selected as a candidate of the Social-Liberal Union (USL) for a deputy mandate in Bucharest, Sector 6, at the National Liberal Party's (PNL) side. He negotiated the coalition of PNG-CD with PNL, but the majority of the liberals didn't agree with this measure. On 19 October 2012, Becali joined PNL, with the support of the party president, Crin Antonescu. He won the election in the 25th uninominal college with 65% of the votes. Becali requested to be a member of the Judicial Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and received assurances that he will be appointed.[22] He resigned from PNL after receiving penal condemnation. On 29 May 2013, the Chamber of Deputies decreed the end of Becali's term as parliamentarian.

Political positions[edit]

His political views are extreme nationalistic; he declared himself a follower of the Pre-WWII Romanian Legionnaire Movement and called for the canonization of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu.[23]

His 2004 electoral slogan "I, Gigi Becali, swear to all Romanians and to God that I'll make Romania shine like the holy sun of the sky" ("Eu Gigi Becali, jur în faţa tuturor românilor şi în faţa lui Dumnezeu că voi face ca România să strălucească precum soarele sfânt de pe cer!") is taken from the testament of Ion Moţa, one of the founders of the Iron Guard.

In 2005, Dan Pavel resigned from his job as Becali's adviser because of Becali's links with Noua Dreaptă, a neofascist organization. Pavel claims that a few months after, Becali gave up those links.[24]

Raport with Băsescu and PD-L[edit]

Becali and the party he is leading are allied with the Democratic Liberal Party in Bucharest's local council. The PD-L leaders announced they don't want a National Liberal vice-mayor, but they would rather support one from Becali's party.[25]

Controversies[edit]

Views on homosexuality[edit]

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, focused 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".[26] 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."[27]

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".[28]

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".[29]

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.[30]

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."[31] 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?"[32]

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".[33] 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".

Legal action for discrimination against homosexuals[edit]

In 2010 Becali made public statements that Steaua would never employ a gay footballer. Asociaţia ACCEPT, a Romanian gay rights organisation, complained against Becali and Steaua to Romania's National Council for Combating Discrimination that these statements breached Romania's anti-discrimination and hate speech laws. The Council upheld the complaint against Becali. However, it imposed no fine because of a Romanian law that a fine cannot be imposed more than six months after the discriminatory act. The Council dismissed the complaint against Steaua because Becali is not an official spokesperson of the club. ACCEPT appealed the decision to the Bucharest Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal has referred questions of European Union law to the Court of Justice of the European Union.[34] The Court heard the case on 22 January 2012 [35] and delivered its judgment on the 25th of April 2013, in which it found that homophobic statements regarding recruitment of football players made by a person who is perceived by the public as having a leading role in the football club can constitute direct discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited by the Council Directive 2000/78 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

Xenophobia[edit]

Some of Becali's remarks have been considered xenophobic; for instance, in May 2008, the National Audovisual Council fined the OTV channel for allowing Becali's "aggressive and xenophobic speech", which "instigated to hate against the Hungarian minority in Romania" to go on live, without any intervention from Dan Diaconescu, the talk show host.[36] He also believes in a conspiracy of the "Hungarian Freemasons", claiming that it is them who are financing Steaua's adversary, CFR Cluj.[37]

In November 2001, Becali and his bodyguards insulted and physically abused Malonga Parfait, the host of a satirical football TV Show, "Fotbal la Maxx". Becali called Parfait a "monkey" allegedly because the latter is of African origin.[38]

There have been numerous controversies with the violent declarations linked with the Steaua football team, including the use of slurs against the Romani and other minorities by fans and employees of Becali. He also sang in April 2005 a manea which included a racial slur against the Roma.[39]

In 2012, Gigi Becali refused to sign French football player Florent Sinama-Pongolle on the basis that he was of black skin colour, even though Romanian football player Bănel Nicoliță, who played with him at the French club Saint-Etienne, said that the player was very talented.[40]

Antisemitism[edit]

Becali has also made some antisemitic statements, like calling George Copos a "kike". Iuliu Muresan, the chairman of Romanian football club CFR Cluj has also accused Becali of antisemitism.[41]

Violence[edit]

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.[42]

In 2005, Becali provoked controversy by using extremely vulgar language in an interview, insulting the reporter and the channel he worked for (Antena 1).[vague]

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.[43]

Following a match of Steaua Bucureşti 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".[44]

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 Bucureşti 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 admitted that when he lost money in a casino, he lost his temper and began throwing chairs toward the windows, breaking them.[45]

On April 2, 2009 George Becali was arrested over illegally holding 3 people against their will, because he suspected they were involved in stealing his car. He was arrested for 29 days, but he got out of jail after 15 days. Four other people, his bodyguards, Cătălin Zmărăndescu, Ştefan Dediu, Nicolae Dumitraşcu and Dumitru Beciual, who were also involved in the incident, were issued arrest warrants as well.[citation needed] Becali announced his candidacy for the European Parliament from his prison cell. Nick Thorpe, the BBC's correspondent to Romania, says that many Romanians see him as a victim of crime rather than a perpetrator, and that sympathy about the case undoubtedly helped Becali win a seat in Brussels for the nationalist Greater Romania Party. Romanian judges initially barred Becali from taking his MEP seat due to ongoing police investigation.[19] Eventually, the Romanian Supreme Court lifted all bans and Becali was allowed to take his Brussels seat. Becali spent three week in jail during the investigation.[20] In February 2013, Becali was given a suspended sentence of 3 years in jail for this case.[46]

Various[edit]

In September 2007, Becali sparked controversy when he insulted parliamentarian Lavinia Sandru, stating that she should "go and become a candidate for the ring road, not for the European Parliament", a veiled reference to prostitution.[47] He has also remarked that a woman "has no more value" after she has given birth to a child. This led to a group of twenty-six women reporting Becali to the National Council for Combating Discrimination for contravening Romania's anti-discrimination laws. On October 6, the Council ruled that Becali's comments were discriminatory towards women and "affected the dignity of women", Becali being fined 500 lei.[48]

Becali has also been sued various times, mostly over slander, by the football coach Anghel Iordănescu, politician Radu Berceanu and a Divizia A referee, Cristian Balaj.[citation needed]

Conviction[edit]

George Becali was sentenced to 3 years in prison on 20 May 2013. According to the prosecutors, between 1996 and 1999, in the role of administrator of the state's public property land in the Voluntari area, the Ministry of National Defense performed two land swaps with George Becali. The total area of the two traded plots was 0.2889 square kilometers of land. This trade resulted in 892,758 USD of damage to the Romanian state.[49]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Gigi Becali revine la mahala", 2 March 2005
  2. ^ România Liberă, "Cum şi-a făcut Becali averea", 14 March 2007
  3. ^ Gândul, "Scandalul schimbului de terenuri dintre Gigi Becali şi Ministerul Apărării Naţionale s-a mutat la DNA", June 17, 2006
  4. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Ciubuc pentru Babiuc", 4 July 2007
  5. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Gigi Becali deţine 66 la sută din FC Steaua SA" 5 January 2004
  6. ^ Cronica Română, "Gigi Becali a câştigat procesul cu ANAF", May 20, 2006
  7. ^ Chican, Marius; Focşeneanu, Dorin. "Românii plătesc datoriile Stelei". Evenimentul Zilei. Retrieved 2007-09-06. 
  8. ^ "Gigi Becali si-a vandut toate actiunile de la Steaua nepotilor sai". Retrieved 2007-09-06. 
  9. ^ Gazeta Sporturilor, "Stîna cea de taină"
  10. ^ "Isărescu ingroapa Becali Bank", in Ziua, 11 August 2008
  11. ^ a b "Becali: Isărescu este un măscărici!", in Cotidianul, 11 August 2008
  12. ^ Romanian Chamber of Deputies, "Şedinţa Camerei Deputaţilor din 15 decembrie 2000"
  13. ^ Biroul Electoral Central, "Proces Verbal privind rezultatul pentru alegerea Preşedintelui României"
  14. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Gigi Becali a fost învins de Oana Pellea", 14 March 2006
  15. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Vadim îl face pe Becali handicapat" 3 September 2004.
  16. ^ Bucharest Daily News, "Becali says the PM is a 'cockroach-politician'", 16 April 2006
  17. ^ Cotidianul, "Gigi Becali promite o revoluţie culturală";, 16 December 2006
  18. ^ (Romanian) "Becali: 'Eu ştiu engleza, o simt în mine, o mai repet puţin, cam o lună, şi gata'" ("Becali: 'I Know English, I Feel It in Me, I'll Practice a Little More, about a Month, and That's It'"), Cotidianul, 8 June 2009; accessed June 8, 2009
  19. ^ a b BBC News, 9 June 2009, Romanian judges bar populist MEP
  20. ^ a b Mediafax, 30 Oct 2009, Romanian Supreme Court Lifts All Bans For MEP Gigi Becali
  21. ^ http://www.bec2009p.ro/Documente%20PDF/Rezultate/Rezultate%20provizorii%20finale/Date%20provizorii%20P.pdf
  22. ^ http://www.mediafax.ro/politic/becali-am-vorbit-cu-grupul-pnl-si-am-cerut-la-comisia-juridica-mi-s-a-spus-ca-voi-fi-in-comisie-10398658
  23. ^ Profile: Gigi Becali, at RFE/RL
  24. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Gigi Becali, legionarii şi neonaziştii"
  25. ^ "PD-L nu vrea viceprimar liberal, ci unul din partidul lui Becali", Ziua, 20 June 2008
  26. ^ Mihai Niculescu, Războinicul luminii, în cruciada anti-homosexuali ("The militant of light, in an anti-homosexual crusade"), Ziarul, 26 May 2006
  27. ^ Becali: 'Dau câteva milioane de dolari şi îi terminăm pe homosexuali!' (Becali: "I'll give a few million dollars and we'll finish off the homosexuals"), 9AM.ro, 2 June 2006
  28. ^ Dan Tapalagă, Editorial - Păcatul bisercii becalizate ("Editorial: The sin of the Becalised Church"), Cotidianul, 4 June 2006
  29. ^ Radu Călin Cristea, Gigi Becali şi circul groazei ("Gigi Becali and the circus of horror"), Cotidianul
  30. ^ Gala Premiilor Gay 2006 (The Gay Awards Gala 2006), GayOne.ro, 4 October 2006.
  31. ^ (Romanian) Homosexualii şi lesbienele îi critică pe Vanghelie, Iliescu şi Becali!, ProTV, 7 June 2007
  32. ^ (Romanian) Gigi Becali a încheiat conferinţa OSCE printr-un discurs, ProTV, 8 June 2007
  33. ^ "Europeanul" Becali vrea sa-i izoleze pe homosexuali (The "European" Becali wants to isolate homosexuals), Evenimentul Zilei, 24 September 2007
  34. ^ Court of Justice of the European Union
  35. ^ Open Society Justice Initiative
  36. ^ National Audiovisual Council of Romania, "Decizia nr. 420 din 20.05.2008"
  37. ^ "Îi fac pe unguri!", in Gazeta Sporturilor, 12 February 2008
  38. ^ "Gigi Becali l-a bătut pe Malonga Parfait!", in Evenimentul Zilei 5 November 2001
  39. ^ Pro Sport, Gigi Becali a devenit interpret de manea..., 27 April 2005
  40. ^ [1]
  41. ^ [2]
  42. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, Pentru că a <<îndrăznit>> să scrie despre afacerile sale, Gigi Becali l-a ameninţat cu moartea pe Cristian Tudor Popescu ("Because he <<dared>> write about his deals, Gigi Becali threatened death to Cristian Tudor Popescu"), February 5, 2002
  43. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Huidu nu vrea bani de la Gigi Becali", 20 July 2005
  44. ^ Evenimentul Zilei, "Jurnalistă de la Realitatea TV agresată de gărzile lui Becali", 28 April 2006
  45. ^ "Gigi Becali: “Am luat scaunul şi am spart toate vitraliile din cazinou”", Cotidianul, 16 September 2008
  46. ^ "Becali, CONDAMNAT DEFINTIV la trei ani închisoare cu suspendare în dosarul sechestrării de persoane", Mediafax, February 11, 2013
  47. ^ (Romanian) Basescu si Becali, "frati" de discriminare (Băsescu and Becali, brothers in discrimination), ROL Ştiri, 15 September 2007
  48. ^ (Romanian) Becali, amendat cu 500 de lei pentru discriminare (Becali, fined 500 lei for discrimination), Cotidianul, 6 October 2007
  49. ^ "VERDICT FINAL în DOSARUL TERENURILOR: Gigi Becali, TREI ANI DE ÎNCHISOARE CU EXECUTARE". Realitatea TV. 20 May 2013. 
Business positions
Preceded by
Viorel Păunescu
Owner of Steaua
2003-present
Incumbent

External links[edit]