Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Kidnap Torment That Haunts Chelsea Target; Kaladze's Life Is Scarred by Sorrow of His Brother, Who Was Taken by Chechen Gang

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Kidnap Torment That Haunts Chelsea Target; Kaladze's Life Is Scarred by Sorrow of His Brother, Who Was Taken by Chechen Gang

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT HUGHES

JOSE MOURINHO likes intelligent footballers with a serious nature, but there is a dark side to Kakha Kaladze's sober countenance. The Georgian left-back has been touched by tragedy.

For the last four years Kaladze, who Chelsea hope to sign from AC Milan next week, has had to live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether his younger brother is dead or alive.

Levan Kaladze was kidnapped by Chechen rebels in May 2001 and despite the family's willingness to pay a $1million dollar ransom he has never been returned.

Kaladze's ordeal appeared to be coming to an end when a mass grave of kidnap victims was discovered in the Panski Gorge, a rugged rural hideout used by Chechens 40 miles from the Georgian capital Tbilisi, but Levan's body was not among their number. The 24-year-old is almost certainly dead but the family have yet to give up hope that he will be found.

As recently as last December Kaladze said that he was 90 per cent confident that his brother was still alive and he won't stop believing.

The targeting of the country's political, economic and sporting elite by criminal gangs hoping to extract huge ransoms is common in Georgia.

The Kaladze family's ordeal began when Levan, a medical student, was attacked by three masked men outside a Tbilisi hospital and dragged away to a nearby car. The gang demanded a $1m ransom and though the AC Milan defender showed a willingness to pay the money his brother was not released. The Italian Prime Minister and Milan owner, Silvio Berlusconi, even became involved but to no avail.

After the initial onset of grief Kaladze's emotions turned to anger and he launched a furious attack on the "feebleness and indifference" of the Georgian Interior Ministry, for failing to secure his brother's release.

Such was his anger that he boycotted some of Georgia's qualifying matches for Euro 2004 and talked of taking up Ukrainian citizenship, where he had played with Dinamo Kiev after leaving Dinamo Tbilisi before joining Milan for [pounds sterling]10m in 2001.

Indeed it was only the personal intervention of the then Georgian President, Eduard Shevardnadze, that secured the 27-year-old's return to the national team. …

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