Two cleared of gunpoint attack on QPR director
Two men were cleared today of taking part in a gunpoint attack on a director at Queens Park Rangers.
Gianni Paladini, 60, claimed he was punched and threatened with a pistol after being ambushed by fellow director David Morris and six thugs in a takeover bid at the Coca-Cola Championship club's west London ground.
The Italian-born tycoon and QPR shareholder said he was forced to sign a resignation letter handing over his club shares during the match against Sheffield United on August 13 last year.
But a jury at London's Blackfriars Crown Court today cleared Morris, 50, of Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, and John McFarlane, 39, of Hayes in Middlesex, of taking part in the attack.
They were acquitted of conspiracy to blackmail, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, charges which they had denied.
The jury have yet to reach verdicts on the four remaining defendants and Judge Charles Byers sent the jurors home, asking them to resume their deliberations next Wednesday.
The other defendants, who all deny conspiracy to blackmail, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence are Andy Baker, 40, of North Petherton, Somerset; Aaron Lacey, 36, of Watford, north London; David Davenport, 38, of Chesham, Bucks; and Michael Reynolds, 45, of Wood Green, north London.
A seventh defendant, Barry Powell, 34, of Greenford, in Middlesex, was acquitted of all charges last month.
The prosecution had alleged that Mr Paladini had been threatened at the match during scenes reminiscent of TV gangster series The Sopranos.
It was alleged that Morris had asked Mr Paladini to go to the chief executive's office for a chat before a home game before they were joined by six other men - hired `muscle' said to have been arranged by security consultant Baker.
Baker allegedly told Paladini they were all QPR fans and ``what they were doing was for the club'', before punching him in the stomach.
In shaky handwriting the alleged victim, a former player and later football agent, wrote out a resignation letter, the court was told.
Mr Paladini finally managed to break free after his son Stephen, who had come with him to the game, found him ``highly distressed and in tears'', it was claimed.
Morris and McFarlane denied ever making threats to Mr Paladini and today walked free from court.