Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp’s own words prove he’s guilty of evading U.K. taxes, a prosecutor said in a closing arguments at a criminal trial in London.
Redknapp, 64, is accused of working with his co-defendant, Sheffield Wednesday owner Milan Mandaric, to evade U.K. taxes by putting $295,000 into an offshore account when they were at Portsmouth soccer club. Redknapp told a reporter from the now defunct News of the World tabloid and police the funds were bonuses linked to his employment, before telling the court yesterday that they were loans for investments.
“You can’t really imagine a case in which you’ve got the most compelling evidence from the defendant himself about what all this is about,” Prosecutor John Black told the jury. “In one unguarded moment on a tape with a News of the World journalist, Mr. Redknapp told it as it was and that in a sense condemns him.”
Redknapp was interviewed by reporter Rob Beasley before he was questioned about the account by police. Beasley told the court last week he obtained the information after paying 8,000 pounds ($12,600) to an unnamed source. The News of the World was closed last year by News Corp. (NWSA) after revelations that reporters hacked into the phones of celebrities and a murdered teenager. A separate investigation into illegal payments to police is also under way.
Redknapp yesterday described Beasley as a “liar”, saying he misled the reporter because he didn’t feel he needed to tell him the truth.
Black told the jury that whatever they may think about the newspaper, the tape-recorded conversation between Beasley and Redknapp was the “most compelling and important evidence” in the case.
Redknapp is the favorite to replace Fabio Capello as England national team manager, one of the most coveted in world sports, after this summer’s European Championships. Still, Black said it was “plain” the coach had cheated on his taxes.
“It may not be popular to say that of a man respected in his business, a fantastic football manager, a man of very many qualities but the fact remains that this money was paid into an account in Monaco and no tax was paid on it,” Black said.
The prosecution says two payments made between 2002 and 2004 were bonuses linked to Redknapp’s employment at Portsmouth and should have been subject to income tax. The payments are alleged to be connected to profits from the sale of striker Peter Crouch and Redknapp’s success in keeping Portsmouth in the Premier League in 2004.
Black said there’s no paper trail to prove Mandaric’s claim that he invested money on Redknapp’s behalf in U.S. stocks. The jury asked the judge to find out how hard prosecutors tried to find documents related to the U.S. investment.
Black said he could find no reason why Redknapp opened the account named after his late bulldog Rosie in Monaco and why money had to move between the U.S. and a tax haven “famed for its discretion.”
In closing, Black listed a series of questions the jury must consider that cast doubt on Redknapp and Mandaric’s account of the payments.
“If these were bonus payments, tax wasn’t paid on them and these men both intended to conceal and hide that fact from the tax authorities for year after year,” Black said. “The fact is revenue who collect taxes in this country have been cheated. If that is indeed what they did, I’m afraid the verdict is one of guilty.”
Manadric and Redknapp’s lawyers will make closing speeches in three days. Judge Anthony Leonard said the jury can expect to begin deliberations on Feb. 7.
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