Romanian police have seized four lions and two bears from the home of notorious Romanian gangster, Ion Balint, who is otherwise known as Nutzu the Pawnbroker. According to CBS, the authorities, together with members of the animal welfare charity, sedated the beasts that were being kept in the gangster’s heavily guarded Bucharest compound and moved them to a zoo, after which they may be transported to South Africa. All of the animals appeared in good health, the environment authorities have reported.
The Huffington Post reports the animals were believed to have been used by Balint to intimidate rivals; however, Balint’s son-in-law has told the Associated Press that these reports are not true.
Balint along with his brother, Vasile, were two of 67 suspects arrested in Bucharest last week following an investigation into Bucharest’s criminal underground. This is not the first arrest for Nutzu the Pawnbroker. Balint was arrested in 2009 and was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for human trafficking, violence, and running prostitution. He was released after one year. Current reports are referencing video footage of Balint leaving the prison in 2010, riding a black stallion and saying, “You said I fed men to the lions? Why don’t you come over and I’ll give you some lions!”
Onlookers and media gathered outside the Bucharest estate to watch the sedated creatures loaded onto stretchers, and images of the animals were quick to circulate around the Internet prompting outrage from animal rights supporters. After his arrest last week, it has been revealed that Balint had kept the animals illegally for the last decade, and no health records for the animals existed. In addition to charges relating to his criminal underworld activities, Nutzu the Pawnbroker could face fines and imprisonment on charges relating to the illegal detainment of wild animals.