Have NUFC Systematically Abused The Tax System As The HMRC Claims?
Newcastle United recently lost their High Court challenge regarding the seizure of documents by tax officials from both their Benton training centre and St James’s Park, along with those taken from several other football clubs.
Both SJP and West Ham United’s London Stadium were raided in the Spring by HMRC officials as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected income tax and National Insurance fraud, something the club denies being aware of.
For their part, the club have issued a statement to the effect that they are disappointed with the Court’s findings and that they are considering their legal options with their advisers, including whether or not to appeal this decision.
The club’s current managing director Lee Charnley also had his own home searched along with a number of other senior European football officials and was arrested and released later without any charge. Both business and financial records were taken, as well as computers and mobile phones owned by the club.
The overall investigation concentrates on football agents and payments made to them in transfer deals between English clubs and French clubs, including Marseille. The latest Court ruling against NUFC was in relation to a challenge from the club against the legality of the search-and-seize orders obtained by HMRC officials from a judge at Leeds Crown Court.
Such appeals are rarely successful though and so Newcastle’s failure at this juncture is no indication of their guilt or otherwise concerning any knowledge club officials may have had of any tax evasion or National Insurance fraud committed by agents and/or French clubs during transfer deals.
In this instance, HMRC have argued in court that reasonable grounds indeed exist for believing Newcastle United FC, as a club, was “knowingly involved” in a multimillion pound tax fraud at the time their offices were raided. Until now, a cord order had prevented the HMRC from examining the seized material, pending the outcome of this legal challenge.
Rather than unite behind the administrators of the club though, the local feeling in Newcastle is one of disgust once again, that the likes of Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley, deeply unpopular figures among fans, may have engulfed the club in more controversy.
Now that the dust has settled on the Graham Carr era in terms of scouting, most fans look back not too fondly on past transfer deals and the HMRC’s case surrounds the transfers of Demba Ba, Sylvain Marveaux, Moussa Sissoko, Davide Santon and Papiss Cisse, most of whom were signed from France and/or signed using French agents.
Given the other personalities and clubs involved, and given the fact that “NUFC” is made predominantly from its fans and followers, not its current legal owners, one would have to conclude that on a moral level, Newcastle United as we know, has not “systematically abused” the tax system. Whether we can say the same for certain individuals sitting in the comfy seats in the Milburn Stand though, only time will tell.