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Monday 19 February 2018

‘I have nothing to hide’, says Glasgow Rangers’ embattled chairman

UNDER-fire Rangers owner Craig Whyte insisted today he has "absolutely nothing to fear" from any investigation into his takeover of the club.

The Ibrox chairman said a "fair" investigation would prove that he has always acted in the best interests of the club and has "been involved in no criminal wrongdoing whatsoever".

Mr Whyte also said he is "100% confident" administrators will prove that all money that has come in and gone out of the club during his tenure has been properly accounted for.

He added that he has not taken "a single penny" out of the Old Firm giant since he became chairman.

Mr Whyte's statement came less than 24 hours after Strathclyde Police revealed they are examining the situation at the Glasgow club.

On Tuesday, Rangers FC was forced into administration over an unpaid tax bill of £9 million.

In a statement released to the Press Association this afternoon, Mr Whyte said he fully understands fans' anxiety following the "traumatic" recent events.

He said: "When I took over as majority shareholder of Rangers in May last year, I knew I had been handed a huge privilege - and an enormous responsibility.

"My intention then was to do everything I could to safeguard the club's future. And that remains my intention today.

"The traumatic events of the last few days have, understandably, led to a great deal of angst and uncertainty as well as a firestorm of media speculation, much of it ill-formed and some of it downright malicious.

"That an internationally-renowned institution such as Rangers should find itself in administration is bound to create shockwaves, particularly among the club's magnificently loyal fans, and I fully understand their anxiety.

"As chairman, I have been at the centre of this firestorm - and quite rightly so.

"I knew when I stepped up to take over the club that the challenge of restoring Rangers to financial health after many years of living well beyond its means would be daunting.

"But I accepted it, both as a lifelong Rangers fan and as a businessman with experience in turning round companies in distress.

"The decision to call in the administrators was painful but it was the right thing to do. They have promised to publish a full report as soon as possible and I very much welcome that.

"In spite of the endless speculation and attempts at character assassination by certain sections of the media, I am 100% confident that the administrators' report will prove that every penny that has come in and gone out of Rangers has been properly accounted for.

"And I wish to state categorically for the record now that I personally have not taken a single penny out of Rangers since I became chairman and have paid all my expenses from my own funds.

"Today I learned that my predecessor, Alastair Johnston, has urged the Crown Office to order an investigation into my takeover of the club.

"Again, I have absolutely nothing to fear because any fair investigation will prove that I have always acted in the best interests of Rangers and been involved in no criminal wrongdoing whatsoever."

Mr Whyte said he would not be attending tomorrow's game against Kilmarnock.

He said his priority is helping the administrators, Duff and Phelps, to conclude the process as quickly as possible.

The chairman added that administration, while "painful", gives Rangers a chance to prosper in the future.

In his statement, he said: "While the administrators get on with their work, it is only right that they are given the time and space they require to complete their task.

"That is why I have decided to take a step back from events so that I do not become a distraction to either that process or to (manager) Ally McCoist and the players.

"Regrettably, I will not be attending tomorrow's match against Kilmarnock. Although I would dearly love to be at Ibrox for the game, my priority is, and will continue to be, to assist the administrators in any way I can to bring this process to as speedy a conclusion as possible.

"Painful though it is for all concerned, administration now gives Rangers a fighting chance - a welcome breathing space - to fix major structural problems that will allow the club to grow and prosper again both on and off the field.

"So I send Ally McCoist and the team my very best wishes for tomorrow. And I will end by simply saying to Rangers fans: I know that tomorrow you will prove why you are the best football fans in the world."

Duff and Phelps were appointed earlier this week after Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) forced the issue in the Court of Session in a bid to secure payment of £9 million in PAYE and VAT, a debt accrued during Mr Whyte's tenure.

The club, who have fallen 14 points behind SPL leaders Celtic after entering administration, are also awaiting the verdict of a tax tribunal which could cost them £75 million.

The administrators yesterday disclosed that they have received "several expressions of interest from parties not connected to the club" since taking over the running of the business.

They also revealed they have been unable to locate £24 million which was lent to the club.

It further emerged last night that Mr Johnston, a former chairman at Rangers, has written to the Crown Office asking for an investigation into the background surrounding the acquisition of the club by Mr Whyte.

A Strathclyde Police spokesman said earlier: "We can confirm that we have been passed information regarding the ongoing situation at Rangers Football Club.

"This is currently being examined. It would be inappropriate to comment further."

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has announced that it will conduct a full independent inquiry into the activities of Rangers.

The governing body will investigate whether there have been any potential breaches of its Articles of Association.

The SFA said attempts to obtain information relating to its "fit and proper person" requirement - regarding Rangers owner Craig Whyte - have been restricted by the club's solicitors' failure to share information.

An SFA statement read: "We are concerned by the developing situation at the club and the new information that has come to light since the appointment of the club administrators, Duff and Phelps.

"The chairman and his panel will be briefed by the chief executive, Stewart Regan, next week and will consult further with the administrators, Duff and Phelps, as part of their inquiry.

"We have been guaranteed full co-operation by Paul Clark, representing the company.

"The Scottish FA's previous efforts in obtaining information relevant to the fit and proper person requirement has been restricted by the club's solicitors' continued failure to share information in a timely or detailed manner.

"We now feel there is no option but to undertake an independent inquiry to establish the clear facts and to determine the extent of any possible rules breaches."

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said they had "no option but to appoint an independent committee to investigate a number of concerns".

He added: "We expect the investigation to be concluded as quickly as possible and will confirm the outcome in due course.

"We will be making no further comment on the investigation in the meantime.

"Finally, I would like to reiterate the need to learn the lessons from this unedifying episode.

"It is essential that we work together to improve the overall sustainability and competitiveness of the game in this country."

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