The enormity of the forthcoming SPL Commission report could easily be lost in the ocean of headlines which has engulfed this matter in recent years. I’ve noted below more information from the recent First Tier Tribunal report on Rangers tax case, in an attempt to clarify some of the key issues.
From The Evidence:
“The Appellants’ first witness was Mr Red, a senior member of the group’s tax function. He is a Chartered Tax Advisor and qualified as a tax inspector previously to joining the Appellants.”
“Mr Red insisted in his evidence that the Trust was not a means of “tax avoidance””.
“It was noted in an internal memo prepared by Mr Red dated 8 September 2005 to the Board of MIH that he had described the Trust as a form of “tax avoidance scheme””.
Dissenting opinion from Ms Poon:
The Nature of the Side-letters
“Another strand of evidence being tested was the nature and purpose of the side-letters. Asked about the secrecy surrounding the side-letters, referring to the fact that they were not lodged with the SFA, nor disclosed in the long period of HMRC’s enquiry, Mr Red’s reply was: ‘I still say there is nothing secret about them. We have nothing to hide in these side letters’.
“It is not accepted that there had been no deliberate concealment of the side-letters, in view of how the first side-letter only came to light through the seizure of Mr Berwick’s file nearly four years into the enquiry.
“It is not accepted that the nondisclosure of the side-letters arose from a ‘credible’ view that Mr Red considered the side-letters irrelevant to HMRC’s enquiry. As a former Inspector of Taxes, Mr Red knew, or should have known, that the side-letters were highly relevant to the enquiry.”
“The side-letters showed a form of contractual arrangement, and they proved linkage between the sums contributed into the sub-trusts at the appointed dates and their withdrawal as loans from the sub-trusts as contemporaneous transactions. The contractual aspect and the linkage between the amounts of contributions to the main Trust and the sums loaned had been repeatedly raised in the enquiry correspondence.
“A fair conclusion to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence on the one hand, and Mr Red’s oral evidence on the other, is that the side-letters had been actively concealed. The reason for the concealment might have been, in Mr Red’s view, the side-letters could be incriminating evidence against the impression of the trust operation that he had been trying to give.”
“While not denying the proposition put to him by the Respondents that ‘there’s an overarching contract with each of the footballers, consisting of the written contract and the side letters’, Mr Red maintained that ‘it’s our view that the side-letter or the letters of undertaking do not need to be registered or lodged with the SFA’ (Day 3/31-32).”
So, in evidence, Rangers witness Mr Red, did not deny the proposition that there was an overarching contract with footballers consisting of the declared contract and side-letters, but “it’s our view” that side-letters did not need to be lodged with the lodge SFA. Ms Poon suggests a fair conclusion is the side-letters were “actively concealed” as they could be “incriminating evidence”.
The SFA has issued disciplinary action against many clubs for erroneous registration but no club has ever faced a charge of actively concealing information necessary for proper registration.
The SFA president was a working director of Rangers when “our view” was established and was legally responsible for the club’s actions. As I noted yesterday, but, frankly, can still not comprehend, on publication of this report the president announced himself “somewhat vindicated” by its contents.
John McClelland became a board member of Rangers in 2000 (legally responsible for conduct and oversight) and according to Wikipedia held senior board level positions in the electronics industry. He was also a director of the SPL (legally responsible for conduct and oversight) between the company being formed 1997 and 2008.
The majority opinion, which favoured Rangers position in regards to income tax, noted the following about Mr Indigo, who was “a board member of Rangers since 2000. His previous career was in industry, latterly serving in senior executive roles.”
Mr Indigo “acknowledged that he was, however, aware of the overall content of arrangements made with players and did not consider these to be “secret”. He believed that the Trust had been used to pay appearance money and bonuses.”
According to rules established by SPL directors, including Mr McClelland, money paid in connection with football, including appearance money, has to be registered with the league. It also has to be registered with the SFA.
When the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission reports, we will discover if this is what passes as vindication in Scottish football, or if a senior officeholder of the SFA, and others, will be dismissed in disgrace and banned, sine die, from the game.
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