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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Gunman 'ordered QPR boss to quit'
Gianni Paladini
Mr Paladini bought his stake in the club in May 2004
A football club director was ordered at gunpoint to quit after a boardroom battle with a rival, a court has heard.

Gianni Paladini was approached by Queens Park Rangers shareholder David Morris as they prepared to watch a match, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.

But he then found himself surrounded by men who forced him to write out a resignation letter, jurors were told.

Mr Morris and six others deny false imprisonment, conspiracy to blackmail, and possession of a firearm.

The court was told Mr Paladini may have "ruffled a few feathers" after buying his shares and there had been rows over how the club's affairs were being managed.

David Williams QC, prosecuting, said Mr Morris believed Mr Paladini had made threats against him and his family in a phone conversation with someone else.

"Whatever the reasons, by August 13 last year, there were those at QPR who wanted Gianni Paladini out and chief amongst those people was David Morris," said Mr Williams.

That day, QPR were playing at home against Sheffield United and Mr Morris asked Mr Paladini for "a word", the court was told.

It wasn't the sort of share or boardroom struggle that you might expect in business papers or newspapers
Prosecutor David Williams QC

But Mr Paladini suddenly found himself surrounded by "heavies", shouted at and slapped and punched until he complied with their demands, Mr Williams said.

Mr Paladini owned a 14.7% stake in the club at the time, and was forced to resign from the board of directors and surrender his shares, it was claimed.

"It wasn't the sort of share or boardroom struggle that you might expect in business papers or newspapers," Mr Williams said.

"Quite literally, a gun was produced and possibly another held to the head of Gianni Paladini."

Defendant David Davenport is alleged to have pointed a gun at him and said: "We're not messing about, we've got guns."

Co-defendant Aaron Lacey was said to have pushed something into the back of Mr Paladini's head and said: "Let's kill him now."

Towards the end of the ordeal, it was claimed Mr Morris said: "Now the boys will teach you what life is about."

Mr Paladini then received a number of slaps and blows, Mr Williams said.

Armed raid

The alarm was raised when a member of the club's catering staff was said to have called to police from an open window.

Shortly after half-time in the game against Sheffield United, armed police burst into Mr Morris' executive box at the Loftus Road ground.

They found a screwed-up piece of paper, said to be in Mr Paladini's shaky handwriting, and two bundles of cash totalling 7,000 which was said to be payment for the "heavies", jurors were told.

Mr Morris, 50, is charged alongside Andy Baker, 40, from Somerset, Barry Powell, 34, John McFarlane, 39, both west London, Aaron Lacey, 36, from Watford, David Davenport, 38, from Buckinghamshire and Michael Reynolds, 45, from north London.

It is alleged that Mr Baker was a security consultant who provided the "muscle" - allegedly the other five defendants.

The trial continues.


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