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Arrest warrant issued for Chinaglia, 8 others at Lazio

ROME -- Former Italy and Cosmos star Giorgio Chinaglia is being sought by Italian authorities, who issued an arrest warrant for him and eight others Friday on charges of extortion and insider trading at the Italian league club Lazio.

Chinaglia, who helped the Rome team win its first Italian title in 1974, is wanted in an investigation of an alleged attempt to influence the price of Lazio shares over the last six months, the prosecutor's office in Rome said.

"It's incredible. I don't know where it (the charge) has come from," Chinaglia said on Italy's SKY TG24 news channel. "I have never committed extortion."

The 59-year-old Chinaglia, a former Lazio president who now lives in the United States, is accused of trying to oust current club president Claudio Lotito by falsely claiming that there was a Hungarian investment group interested in buying a controlling stake in the club, according to police in Rome.

"President Lotito never wanted to sit at the table with the Hungarian group that was interested in acquiring the team," Chinaglia said. "And if no one wants to believe that, then, enough, let's forget it."

Chinaglia, who played alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbauer for the Cosmos in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s, added that he was "calm" and had "nothing to prove because I haven't done anything."

The SKY TV network said Chinaglia was speaking from the New York area. When reached on his New Jersey-based cell phone by The Associated Press, Chinaglia referred comments to his lawyer in Rome.

Recently, Chinaglia also worked as a studio analyst during game broadcasts for ESPN during the 2006 World Cup.

Of the nine warrants, four were reportedly for fans who allegedly tried to intimidate Lazio president Claudio Lotito into selling the club.

The current Lazio president received a letter threatening him and his wife with violence, according to Italian news reports.

Lotito is being investigated by the prosecutor's office in Milan in a separate case of insider trading, involving the sale of Lazio stock in 2005, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

Lazio, which already is embroiled in Italy's game-fixing scandal involving Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina, is traded on the Milan stock exchange. Lazio's share price fell 4.76 percent Friday to 50 cents.