02 September 2015

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?


by Andy McKellar | Editor Emeritus

The calamitous turmoil of Rangers Football Club’s recent past will not quietly pass into distant memory it would appear. Arrests were made Tuesday in connection with the alleged fraudulent acquisition in 2012 and charges were filed against Craig Whyte, Charles Green – both of whom face organised crime charges – and David Whitehouse, joint-administrator for Duff & Phelps. His counterpart Paul Clark was added to the arrest roll Wednesday.

Given the nature of the case it would be wrong and dangerous to comment on the perceived events of the high-profile purchase of the Club, but it is worth remembering that all of the above men are in fact innocent until proven guilty. It’s just a shame that the same luxury wasn’t afforded to the Club itself in the aftermath of our plunge into administration and during the chaos that followed.

The narrative, if you remember correctly, quickly became about “financial doping”, “cheating” and tainted titles that were won using the taxpayers money. There was no consideration that Rangers could in fact win the Big Tax Case at the eagerly anticipated First-tier Tribunal. There was no consideration that in fact the Club had been found guilty of nothing.

Unfortunately such judgement wasn’t just being passed by journalists and the online mob that were baying for blood. The football authorities also did their fair share of pre-judging and were too quick and hasty to allocate blame when all of the facts were not yet apparent. The Scottish Football Association themselves acknowledged that Craig Whyte was the “directing mind and will of the company.”

This mattered not. Whyte escaped with a fine that was never to be paid and Rangers were hammered a financial penalty, one that would later be attributed to the new company, and with a transfer embargo which was later deemed unenforceable in a court of law. This was justice, apparently, Scottish football style.

Sadly, this isn’t where it ended. Rangers applied for membership of the Scottish Premier League, something which we were within our rights to do despite what others might tell you. But such was the portrayal of our Club’s supposed sins at that time, we were never likely to succeed. With the likes of Leeds United in England this was merely a formality–context was considered. But this is Scottish football, and common sense rarely prevails.

Supporters of the SPL member clubs were outraged at the thought of Rangers remaining in the top-tier. They cried and bawled and squawked until their chairmen could do nothing else but hide behind their pathetic excuses and misplaced notions of sporting integrity. Our success it would seem had produced tremendous jealousy and hatred.

What’s laughable, and indeed inexcusable, is that our governing bodied bowed to this petulance. They threw aside the rulebook and any notion of integrity or principles and began to give the mob the blood they craved. Rangers had to apply for membership, and that presented the perfect opportunity for pre-judgement and blackmail.

Rangers were asked to surrender our titles and trophies for crimes the Club never committed. This is how the SFA and the SPL treated one of their member clubs. This was their idea of justice and due process.

The Scottish Premier League’s independent commission later cleared Rangers of “cheating.” No sporting advantage was gained. No players were ineligible to play. And yet the SFA and SPL in their infinite wisdom had judged, weeks prior to this verdict, that Rangers should throw away these titles and silverware in order to be permitted entry into the Third Division. Talk about corruption.

The actions of the past deserve far more coverage and criticism than any single article could provide however even a summary as brief as above highlights the unjust and unfair treatment our Club has received during a dark and difficult period of its proud history.

Rangers Football Club has certainly been the victim of gross mismanagement and negligence in recent years, of that there is absolutely no doubt. It may well be hypothetical at the moment but what if – just what if – it was also the victim of fraud?

Where would that leave those who lined up to have a kick? Where would that leave those who found our Club guilty without even considering the possibility of its innocence? Where would it leave those who abandoned their duties to a member club and instead punished it for being the victim of a crime?

Regardless of what happens to Whyte, Green or any of the other gentlemen yet to face police involved in relation to our Club’s recent history, the past is the past. Nothing that happens is going to change the mess we became under their stewardship or alter the way our club was treated throughout the whole saga. Nothing will put us back into the SPL a few years ago and nothing will repair the damage caused in the meantime.

It would however be nice to establish the facts and to see justice served, in whatever form that may take. Some don’t wish to look back, and understandably so, but others will feel that we deserve to know the truth. 

It’s just a shame that we weren’t afforded the same luxury that the courts will grant Messrs Whyte, Green et al. Rangers were, and probably still are in the eyes of many, guilty until proven innocent.

11 comments:

  1. A fairly balanced review,my reading of events is this:

    Fans and clubs did not demand titles be striped when Rangers accepted they had evaded tax (DOS) in the wee tax case,this suggests the claims of unaffordability and unfair advantage only surfaced post liquidation when it became clear Rangers would not be paying their dues.In effect. liquidation created unaffordable players which spawned the cheating allegations,i.e. if Rangers could afford to pay back the tax then they were not cheating.So the real bug bare seems to be liquidation,and we will soon found out if Rangers liquidation was in of itself a fraudulent act.

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    1. Rangers did not "accept they had evaded tax". A bill was agreed with the taxman. This was a similar situation to when Celtic paid the tax on the EBT they set up. Or do you think Celtic also "accepted they had evaded tax"?

      Also, Rangers were not liquidated. Only the limited company that previously operated the football club went into liquidation. A new company (newco) took on the running of the football club.

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    2. The allegations of financial doping and cheating had nothing to do with the 'wee tax case' they were all about the 'big tax case'. Although under appeal by HMRC, as things stand, Rangers were cleared of any tax evasion or illegal practice on taxation matters. They were found to have made some, relatively, minor administrative errors. That is all.
      All of the witch-hunt revolved around the unproven allegations on the 'big tax case'.
      The football authorities acted shamefully in bowing to the disgusting behaviour of the other club chairmen and their even more disgusting, so called, supporters. They changed the rules, so that what should have been a straight forward administrative procedure was put to a vote of the other clubs' chairmen. The rest is history.
      The 'wee tax case' is, almost entirely, down to the time that Whyte was running the club (perhaps fraudulently). Well after the periods that some were calling for honours to be stripped from the club. Therefore Rangers were, indeed, punished for that which they had not done. Going into administration calls for a points reduction. That is all that Rangers should have suffered. Those who claimed that hey had to start as a new club have been put right, in that error, which they now admit, by Lord Nimmo Smith and other experts in Insolvency matters.
      On the liquidation. I agree, that if all these charges stand up, it is illegal. I would expect that all transactions including the administration, sale of the club, other business, and assets to Green, together with the liquidation process are ruled invalid. I expect that the liquidation process will be halted or reversed. Either by an application by BDO, or other interested parties, to the High Court. The club, all other business and assets, should be returned to oldco and then oldco returned to David Murray and other oldco shareholders.
      Whyte, Green and others, if found guilty, would be responsible for all debts incurred during any fraudulent time they were in charge of the companies running the club.

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    3. I don't believe the actual process of liquidation will be reversed regardless of any potential fraud,but there may be some legal recourse against D&P if they are found guilty of conspiracy.

      I generally agree with both replies,basically they should have waited until the full outcome of the BTC instead of lynching Rangers without a trial..

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  2. Still a lot being brushed under the carpet if you ask me. I would have liked to see both David Murray and Bank of Scotland Group being investigated for their part in the sale of the Business to Craig Whyte. Could a Captain of Industry really be duped by Craig Whyte and did the Bank of Scotland not do its due diligence of Craig Whyte. All in all a very strange situation!

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    1. Evening Tom,I doubt neither SDM nor Lloyds cared about anything else but proof of funds,and they got it.

      I think the most head scratching event in all of this is Ticketus loaning CW 25 million without even the most basic credit and background check,especially with the BTC having over the company
      .Ticketus must have known the risk this placed on the company and yet handed over 25 million to a complete stranger involved in a DISTRESSED company?

      Bizarre.

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    2. Becker,

      I'm the same. To lead it back to Murray though, are we to believe TicketUs didn't phone Rangers / Murray / MIH and say "we've got a guy who is trying to sell £25m of future tickets in the company you currently own, do you know anything about it?"

      I don't for a second believe that Murray (or Muir) were unaware that this was where the funds came from. They can say that Collyer Bristow lied (and they did) but I will not accept they didn't have knowledge (either from what the board of AJ, Murray etc were telling them) or from information TicketUS must've questioned.

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    3. I agree,the only explanation i can come up with is Ticketus thought their loan was secured indirectly through CW's floating charge over the assets,maybe they thought the worst scenario was Ticketus owning the assets if the company went bust.

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  3. Becker, the proof of funds was in itself a fraudulent act as it was signed by Garry Withey of C.B. Craig Whites lawyer. Almost all of the money recovered by BDO has come from a legal claim against Collyer and Bristow. It's because of this successful claim that what William said isn't beyond the realms of possibility and as Withey is charged and possibly going to jail this act not withstanding everything else happening around the club could see RIFC once again becoming RFC.

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    1. For the original sale or subsequent liquidation to be voided either SDM or HMRC would have to object,i see neither objecting.

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  4. My own view is that Whyte tried to arrange a 'Pre-Pack' administration for The Club, meaning that he would be able to procure the assets (Ibrox and Murray Park, in essence) at a bargain price - making the case to BDO that he'd saved them money due to the process being much shorter than in normal administration processes.If you all recall, he'd set about stripping liquid assets from The Club, such as Nikica Jelavic and The Arsenal Share? Unfortunately, HMRC got in the way with their BTC action and prevented the CVA that Whyte craved. I believe he then employed our Chuck to facilitate this for him as his own name had become synonymous with financial failure. de Stefano's letter of April 2012 states that, in his opinion, The Club was not insolvent at the time of entering administration on Valentine's Day 2012.(He was, at that time, a shareholder and had information.) So, in conclusion, CW deliberately took The Club into administration fraudulently, as he knew it was solvent at the time; merely 'forgetting' to settle with HMRC as regards the PAYE, NI and VAT owing during his tenure.

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Keep it civil, lads.