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Lions, bears removed from gangster's property

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 27, 2013 at 11:39 am •  Published: February 27, 2013
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Authorities allege that Balint and his brother Vasile headed a criminal network which controlled much of the underworld activity in Bucharest, a city of 2 million. Some 400 police and detectives were involved in the investigation which led to the arrest last week of 67 suspects, including the Balint brothers.

In 2009, Balint was convicted of human trafficking, violence and pimping, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. That was reduced to six years, but Balint was free after a year.

On Wednesday, the four lions and two bears were sedated, put in cages and removed by environmental authorities and the Vier Pfoten animal welfare charity. The animals, which generally appeared in good condition, will be temporarily housed in a zoo and may eventually be relocated in South Africa, animal welfare officers said.

Mircea Pupaza, commissioner of the National Environment Guard, told The Associated Press that Balint had no documentation or health records for the animals, which he's kept illegally for 10 years. He could face a year in prison and a hefty fine for illegally keeping wild animals.

"The lions are a status symbol for him," said Livia Cimpoeru, a Vier Pfoten spokeswoman. She declined to speculate whether they had a more sinister purpose.