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FLORIN GHINEA: Romania's most wanted 'crime lord' finally extradited

NABBED: Florin Ghinea brought into Bucharest Airport by Romanian Police (Stirile ProTV)

ONE of Europe's most wanted alleged crime lords has finally been extradited to Romania after an 18-month legal battle.

Florin Ghinea, 45, (above) also known as “Ghenosu" was wanted by the Romanian authorities for offences of arranging prostitution, human trafficking, conspiracy to murder, blackmail and money laundering and was listed as one of Europol’s most wanted men.

He was flown out of Heathrow to Bucharest on Wednesday.

The Bulgarian by birth is now expected to face trial in Romania, where he could face a maximum total of 44 years in prison for the offences.

MUGSHOT: Ghinea in a police image (NCA)

He is accused of running a major crime gang that allegedly trafficked prostitutes to Finland, Dubai and Ireland, before laundering proceeds of at least 200,000 euros.

He is also accused of trying to arrange the assassination of alleged "rival pimp" Marian ''Becu'' Tudorache, by offering the would be assassin a flat in exchange for the murder that never went ahead.

Ghinea was arrested by officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) Armed Operations Unit as he left a gym in Watford on August 14 2018, when he had false ID under the name of Florin Bracau, 37.

TARGET: Romanian prosecutors claim Ghinea conspired to kill Marian ''Becu'' Tudorache

During a lengthy extradition battle, which was held up after Ghinea swallowed nail clippers in Belmarsh Prison, he claimed the prosecution is a fit up with "false charges" by a political party because he once helped to rig the country's presidential elections on the promise of a 1.5 million euros bung.

Ghinea, who described himself as a "badass" in court, admitted he was in an organised crime network during the operation, but sensationally named former Romanian President Traian Băsescu in court as being the head of it.

Four prison officers guarded the category A alleged kingpin as he also claimed he was tipped off by corrupt police in Romania that he was about to be arrested in May 2018, before he fled to the UK.

Ghinea admitted to the court he had lived a life of crime and spent 19 years behind bars.

This included eight years for a major electoral fraud in which he was offered 1.5 million euros if he could bribe people to vote for the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) in the 2009 Presidential election.

SHOCKER: Florin Ghinea named in court former Romanian President Traian Băsescu as a crime lord

Toby Cadman, representing Romania, suggested Ghinea made up claims he was tipped off about the probe by police. Speaking through a translator, Ghinea replied: "How else would I know that they were coming to arrest me at 6am? "I was told there was a criminal matter that was being manufactured and they were coming to arrest me." He also admitted previously serving time for prostitution offences and that he was part of an organised crime network, but he denied being its leader, claiming it was in fact run by former Romanian president Traian Băsescu.

Mr Cadman said: "Mr Ghinea is the head of an organised crime group in Romania. "He admits being engaged in corruption, coercion and bribery in relation to electoral fraud. "The requested person is alleged to have taken part in a scheme aimed at corrupting public officials and paying bribes to solicit votes for material gain." Mr Basescu went on to beat his rival Mircea Geoana, despite the latter being ahead in exit polls. In 2017 the Social Democratic Party (PSD) demanded a probe into the 2009 elections.

HELD: Florin Ghinea in custody during a previous case in Romania

Ghinea claimed he is being persecuted by the PSD with the current charges because he refused to cooperate with the inquiry. Mr Cadman added: "He refused to cooperate in a criminal investigation and refused to give evidence against persons of political influence due to a perceived fear of reprisals. "He believes that he is now being prosecuted for other criminal acts due to his refusal to cooperate." Ghinea said while remanded in the UK his wife has been visited by police at 2am. He said: "I was going to people's home addresses and giving them money in order to vote for the PDL.

"One and a half million euros is what the PDL promised to give me if I placed them in power. "But, I was arrested then the winning party called PSD put me in prison." Mr Cadman said: "By you own admission you are the leader of a major organised crime group in Romania." Ghinea replied: "No, the leader is Mr Băsescu." The court heard Romanian investigators secretly intercepted phone calls between Ghinea and his wife while he has been on remand in the UK. Mr Cadman said Ghinea said he was not scared of being extradited and boasted he would not serve a full sentence because he is a "badass" But, Ghinea claimed he was just trying to make his scared wife feel better about the situation. Ghinea claimed he wants to stay in the UK and bring his wife and two-year-old daughter here after setting up a restaurant business. He said: "I am responsible for bringing singers from Romania to the restaurant." Psychologist Dr Graham Rogers told the court Ghinea has post traumatic stress disorder, which is likely to worsen if he is extradited, particularly if he is placed in solitary confinement.

He said he once had to intervene to stop Ghinea repeatedly banging his head on a table in Belmarsh Prison.

GAUNT: A court sketch of Ghinea who had clearly lost weight (Jon Austin)

The once muscular criminal has lost up to 25kgs in weight, he said. Representing Ghinea, Peter Caldwell, said as the alleged crimes had not happened in Romania, he could not be extradited there, but Mr Cadman argued as the crime gang was formed there he could.

However, Judge John Zani did not believe the extradition request was politically motivated.

He wrote in his judgement: "I am not satisfied that Florin Ghinea has come close to demonstrating that this present European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued for any improper or ulterior motive.

"I am entirely satisfied that it was issued for the (proper) purpose of to putting him on trial upon his return.

"I therefore order the extradition of the requested person to return to Romania to face criminal prosecution in respect of the matters set out in the EAW

Dave Hucker, Head of European Operations for NCA International, said: "Ghinea was arrested as a result of some excellent joint working between the NCA and Romanian law enforcement.

“His departure is a huge success, and I’ve no doubt our streets are safer as a result.”

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