HARRY Redknapp told police he had "never fiddled anything" and threatened to sue a newspaper reporter who alleged that a €224,633 (£187,000) payment made to a secret Monaco bank account was a bung, a court heard today.
Redknapp is alleged to have received £187,000 in illicit bonus payments from former Portsmouth Chairman Milan Mandaric during his time at the club, and to have concealed the payments in an offshore account code-named Rosie 47 after the name of his dog and the year of his birth.
Mandaric is alleged to have paid $295,000 into the account in two payments, the first of $145,000 in June 2002, and a further $150,000 in April 2004. The total of $295,000 was worth around £187,000.
The court has been told that the payments were linked to commission payments due to Redknapp following the sale of Peter Crouch from Portsmouth to Aston Villa in March 2002.
On the second day of their trial on two counts of tax evasion the Crown alleged that Redknapp had “dishonestly” concealed the existence of the payments, and said that Redknapp and Mandaric had offered different explanations for why the payments were made.
In police interviews read to the court by prosecutor John Black QC, Redknapp denied that he had deliberately concealed payments to avoid tax, and said the payments were in lieu of bonuses he should have received on the Crouch transfer. He also insisted that Mandaric had told him that he paid tax on the money.
Mandaric however told Beasley that the money was not a bonus, but an investment that “had nothing to do with football or Portsmouth football club”.
“I don’t fiddle anything, I pay my tax, I’ve been in football all my life and I pay every penny,” Redknapp told police during an interview in June 2009.
“I was guaranteed by the man who paid the money that he had paid the tax. Every time I ring Milan he says he paid the tax. I said to him I don’t want a problem with the taxman later on.”
In separate interviews with Rob Beasley, a journalist from the News of the World that were read to the court, Redknapp said he would “sue the b------- off” the reporter if he published a story saying that the payments were a “bung”.
“Don’t say it was a bung, it is nothing to do with a bung, it is paid by the chairman, how can it be a bung when the chairman of the football club paid me? A bung doesn’t come into it. It is not a bung, it’s a f------ sick word.
“If it was dodgy I would have gone over there [Monaco] and brought it back in the back of a briefcase. Do me a favour, I would try and nick thirty grand, I am going t leave myself open for thirty grand? What a load of b------.”
Asked by Beasley if he had paid tax on the amount Redknapp said: “I haven’t been asked to Rob. There’s no tax to pay.”
In the police interviews Redknapp was insistent that the payments to Rosie 47 were linked to the Crouch deal, on which he believed he was due 10% of the net profit of £2.3m.
Portsmouth initially only paid him 5% because his contract changed to a lower commission fee around the time of the transfer, but Redknapp said Mandaric had agreed to recoup the difference through the Monaco account.
Asked by police if the payment was definitely a bonus payment on the transfer Redknapp replied: “One million per cent,” the court was told.
The jury was also told that Redknapp hid details of the Monaco payments from his own professional advisers for up to six years, and feigned “almost complete ignorance” of them when they were finally revealed.
Black said Redknapp and Mandaric had deliberately set out to avoid tax on the payments.
“Neither the existence of the HSBC Monaco account nor the payments made into it were mentioned by Mr Redknapp to his own accounts for four-and-a-half years or to his bank relationship manager for five-and-three-quarter years,” he said.
“The significance of this omission by Mr Redknapp is that were his tax adviser or bank relationship manager told [of the payments] it would almost certainly have resulted in the money in the account being entered on Mr Redknapp’s tax return and coming to the attention of the Inland Revenue,” Black said.
“Unless they were declared the Revenue and Customs would have no idea and the monies would have been kept secret.”
The jury were told that the first payment into Rosie 47 was made in June 2002, but Redknapp first mentioned the existence of the account to investigators from the Quest inquiry into alleged football corruption in November 2006, and then passed the information to his accountant
Black said that Redknapp kept the account secret during this period despite being “under intense scrutiny” by Revenue and Customs, which was conducting a civil tax investigation into a separate commission payment of £300,000 arising from the sale of Rio Ferdinand to Leeds United when Redknapp was manager of West Ham.
The Crown said the tax inquiry closed in October 2006 when Redknapp made a “full disclosure” of his taxable income, and HMRC determined that Redknapp had paid all tax that was due on the Ferdinand commission.
Just four days after his declaration to HMRC however Redknapp was interviewed by Quest and revealed the existence of the ‘Rosie 47’ account.
Black asked the jury to consider why Redknapp had not revealed the account to HMRC during the tax inquiry. “It seems unlikely that the existence of Rosie 47 had not only escaped his attention or slipped his mind and then come back to him in the four days between the closure of the tax inquiry and his interview with Quest,” he said.
Black said that while Redknapp had co-operate with Quest, he had in fact only disclosed the account’s existence because he knew that inquiry was looking at offshore bank accounts.
“This does nothing to rebut the inference of dishonesty on the part of Mr Redknapp in the non-disclosure of the money in the preceding four years,” Black said.
Black said that after Redknapp closed the Rosie 47 account and transferred $207,000 into a UK account, he was “feigning almost total ignorance of its opening and its existence.”