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Dundee bidder claims smear campaign

THE businessman who wants to buy Dundee FC has claimed that allegations of fraud have been dragged up to smear his reputation.

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It was revealed yesterday that Suffolk police have issued an extradition warrant dating from 1991 for Mr Giovanni di Stefano's arrest for alleged fraudulent trading by one of his former companies, Sandhurst Assets. The revelations about the Anglo-Italian businessman , who is said to be a friend of Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, came as Mr Jimmy Marr, owner of Dundee, insisted alternative business plans are in place to rescue the club. Officials will meet this week to discuss Mr di Stefano's offer, but Mr Marr said that the deal would only happen if the board felt it was the right move for Dundee. Mr Marr, who owns the club with his brother Peter, said at the weekend: ''If we decide the deal isn't right for Dundee, it won't go through. We also have our own plans in place and we are still talking to other potential investors.'' He added: ''The only reason we are talking to di Stefano is because we feel he can take the club to a new level given his wealth.'' It was revealed yesterday that the charges against Mr di Stefano concern a period when the businessman ran five hotels in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Leicestershire. A police spokesman said: ''Giovanni di Stefano is wanted in connection with alleged fraudulent trading of a company called Sandhurst Assets plc. ''Mr di Stefano has known for some time that we are after him and if he turns up in the UK we could arrest him.'' However, Mr di Stefano said: ''This is another attempt to smear my reputation. There has already been an attempt to extradite me on these charges which failed because I had nothing to do with them. ''If they want to arrest me why have they not done so on the 34 occasions I have visited Britain since 1991? ''People are trying to smear my name for their own political reasons because I have connections with Mr Milosevic.'' Mr di Stefano said he had been involved with the company, which left debts of #246,000, for only 56 days as a favour to friends. He went on to claim Scotland could play a key role in the reconstruction of Serbia in the wake of Nato's bombing campaign. ''Once Scotland has its freedom after devolution, the Scottish people can play a big part in rebuilding Serbia,'' he said. ''The people of Scotland are not bombing Serbia and they do not support the campaign. ''Scotland is not hostile to Serbia and I would like to ensure her oil companies and power companies are involved in the rebuilding of Serbia.'' Mr Derek Soutar, vice-chairman of Dundee, who has said that he will walk out of the club if the di Stefano deal goes through, last night refused to comment on the latest revelations. Dundee will be thrown out of the premier league unless they can come up with the #1.2m required to upgrade Dens Park into an all-seated stadium to comply with league regulations. Mr di Stefano, who also has links to the war criminal known as Arkan, the leader of a Serb paramilitary group, has been given the option to buy a 10% share in the club, but the deal has not yet been struck and it is understood that the businessman has been negotiating to buy all of the Marrs' 86.4% stake. Mr Norrie Price, chairman of the Dundee FC Supporters' Association, said the club's 2-1 victory over Kilmarnock on Saturday would give the Marrs an incentive to stay at the club. He said: ''Mr di Stefano would not have been our top choice as an investor. But if the future of the club depends on his money we could accept that, but if he comes in there would have to be certain provisos , including that merger of the club is not on the agenda unless with the express wishes of the shareholders and the supporters.''

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