Organised crime gang tried to buy Lazio

July 22, 2008

ROME, July 22 (Reuters) - A notorious Italian organised crime gang tried to buy soccer club Lazio through third parties using funds gained from violence and intimidation, authorities said on Tuesday.

The plan by the Casalesi clan of the Camorra, the Naples version of the mafia, came to light as police in Rome served arrest warrants to 10 people including former Lazio player and president Giorgio Chinaglia.

In 2006 Lazio president Claudio Lotito was given police protection after receiving threats from 'ultra' fans who were allegedly trying to intimidate him into selling to a consortium led by Chinaglia.

Chinaglia was charged with market-rigging linked to his bid and had since been a fugitive in the United States. Allegations that the mafia were behind his bid have only now been revealed.

'He had a significant role because he was used as an external point of reference for the attempted acquisition,' a source close to the investigation, codenamed 'Broken Wings', told Reuters.

Chinaglia said at the time of the bid that he represented Hungarian pharmaceuticals group Richter Gedeon. The company denied any interest.

Lazio, who won the second of their two Italian titles in 2000, are stretched financially and finished 12th in Serie A last season. They are not expected to challenge the top sides this term.