Sheffield Wednesday: Hafiz to sue over ‘false’ arrest claims

Hafiz Mammadov, left, and Milan Mandaric.
Hafiz Mammadov, left, and Milan Mandaric.
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Sheffield Wednesday’s incoming owner Hafiz Mammadov has slammed “false and malicious speculation” in mainland Europe claiming he had been arrested and imprisoned in his homeland of Azerbaijan.

Some media outlets from France and Azerbaijan yesterday alleged Mammadov, who is still waiting for his takeover of the Owls to be rubber-stamped by the Football League, had been detained by the Azerbaijan authorities due to financial difficulties.

But Mammadov, who already owns Azerbaijan side FC Baku and French outfit RC Lens, issued a statement via Wednesday last night threatening legal action against those who initiated the stories.

The statement read: “Certain unfounded rumours have been spread in the press over my supposed arrest and imprisonment in Azerbaijan, which I obviously strongly deny, and which was immediately denied by State Border Guards.

“It seems that false and malicious speculation over my situation is being used with the aim to create confusion and doubt over my financial holdings and commitments. There are no grounds for the allegations made by the press. I will take all necessary legal actions against whoever has initiated these false rumours with the aim to harm my family and me.”

When contacted by The Star, Milan Mandaric, who will stay on as Wednesday chairman, branded the reports as “rubbish”. He said they are in regular dialogue with Mammadov, founder and chairman of the Baghlan Group, which specialises in oil, gas, construction and transportation.

Lens’ promotion to Ligue 1 was recently suspended because of a delay in the payment of £8 million due to the club by Mammadov. But the French club’s president, Gervais Martel, has since confirmed the transfer has been completed.

Martel said the hold up was due to a public holiday in Azerbaijan, claiming that prevented money arriving from Mammadov. It is understood Mammadov paid his outstanding debt last week, paving the way for him to complete his £40m buy-out of Wednesday.

All documents have already been signed with the oil and gas magnate and the club are just waiting for the deal to be approved by the League.

“It is going a little slower than I anticipated but is on course to be done soon,” he said. “When is hard to say. It is always difficult when people are outside of the country so we’ve just had to be patient.”

Wednesday’s summer recruitment drive finally kicked into gear earlier this week, with goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and utility player Sam Hutchinson arriving.