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Lions, bears removed from Romanian gangster's property

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 10:04 am

BUCHAREST, Romania — Authorities have removed four lions and two bears from the estate of a notorious Romanian gangster, who reportedly used them to threaten his victims.

Ion Balint was arrested Feb. 22 with dozens of others on charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, blackmail and possessing illegal weapons. In 2009, he was sentenced for human trafficking, violence and pimping.

Environmental authorities and the Vier Pfoten animal charity tranquilized the animals Wednesday, carried them on stretchers into cages and transported them to a zoo.

Dozens of bystanders gathered outside the estate's gates in Bucharest's slums.

Neighbors and relatives of Balint rejected reports from investigators who said he used the lions, which he had no permit for, to intimidate his victims. They said the 48-year-old Balint is simply an animal lover.