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October 2020
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Premier League clubs tax fraud investigation gathers speed

By Tony Attwood

Financial misdeeds in football are often said by those in the know to be everywhere.   And indeed we used to come across the consequences of them with clubs going into liquidation, and then using the notorious “football creditors” arrangement to ensure that other clubs got money owed while local traders got nothing.

But as football has become more sophisticated so have the dodgy deals, and sad to say, our media has not always been very good at reporting such issues.

Indeed I have heard it said (but of course cannot prove its validity) that the financial misdemeanours across football are now huge.

Certainly all sorts of questions started to be asked when the Sun ran the headline “YOU CAN DAV IT ALL” which was followed by, “David Luiz’s one year at Arsenal will have cost club £24MILLION as ex-Chelsea defender plots Benfica transfer exit.”

Now we did a little bit of digging on that story and it very quickly unravelled, but not before it was picked up and re-used by newspaper after newspaper, and commented upon on sports TV and radio – always to Arsenal’s detriment.

The idea of such a huge payment, we felt, was very unlikely to be true, because parts of the story did not make any sense whatsoever.   But the notion that there are some strange things going on in football finance, is almost certain to be validated, again as we have often suggested.

One such at the moment is the question of the curious accounting undertaken by Newcastle United, who have come under increasing scrutiny of late.

This all began in 2017 when officials from HMRC (the UK’s tax offices) went to both Newcastle United’s and West Ham’s offices and to investigate tax fraud.   There was also a suggestion that Chelsea were a party to one of the dubious transactions.

The first part of the story that emerged was that a judge suggested that the search warrant that HMRC had to search Newcastle’s offices was obtained unlawfully.  The papers that emerged showed that HMRC thought Mike Ashley might have been involved in a scheme to evade three different taxes during a whole series of transfers, including the issuing of  fake contracts.  Tucked away within this was the suggestion that agents were paid fees not shown on the deals.

This sort of suggestion emerged again with the story splashed all over the newspapers over David Luiz’ one year transfer – which was in part why I was so keen to take up the tale on this site.

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Meanwhile back in the north east the home of Newcastle’s managing director was searched,

Throughout the issue has been raised that money is transferred secretly around agents and others in order to avoid the full price of players being registered, and thus tax being avoided by the selling club and by the player.  According to Revenue and Customs, over £1m that should have been paid in tax was not.

There were also allegations of a VAT scam in which transactions are said to have happened with VAT on them, but the VAT is never paid – although it is then reclaimed from the state.

However eventually the courts decided that the warrants were lawful and justified, and no review was allowed.  HMRC said that they were continuing to investigate.

All that was murky enough, but then there came reports that a very high ranking law firm was being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over money laundering.   Which might seem to be none of our business, except that the Guardian then reported that these transactions related to the transfer of Premier League players.

There is much more on this case, and a link to a major firm of solicitors, money laundering, fraud, and the like.   The sort of things Untold used to write about quite a lot in its earlier days, but which then became an issue that somehow seemed to vanish underground.

At least until in March this year the BBC suddenly announced that, “A record number of footballers, clubs and agents in England are being investigated over tax payments.”

The BBC reported HMRC as investigating “330 footballers, 55 clubs and 80 agents, up from 173 players, 40 clubs and 38 agents” and had so far recovered £396m

Interesting that this story, dormant as it has been for a few years, has now popped up one more time.  And interesting too, that although the media would splash around the nonsense about the David Luiz loan, they won’t really dig around in these other cases involving Newcastle, WHU and Chelsea.

Why is that?

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