x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Redknapp trial could cost him England job

Since Monday, the Tottenham Hotspur manager has been on trial at Southwark Crown Court in London charged with dodging tax on payments of Dh1.1 million in an account held in his pet bulldog's name in Monaco.

Harry Redknapp arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London on Friday.
Harry Redknapp arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London on Friday.

LONDON // The outcome of a trial on tax-evasion charges could determine if the English Premier League manager Harry Redknapp gets a job he is not sure he even wants - England team coach.

Mr Redknapp, who now manages Tottenham Hotspur, is the hot favourite to take over the England side after current manager, Fabio Capello, steps down after this summer's European nations' championship.

But, since Monday, Mr Redknapp, 64, has been on trial at Southwark Crown Court in London charged with dodging tax on payments of US$295,000 (Dh1.1m) in an account held in his pet bulldog's name in Monaco.

If he is found guilty, the English Football Association is unlikely to appoint a man as the country's football supremo just months after he is convicted of stealing from his country.

Mr Redknapp, whose own grumpy bulldog looks and raw Cockney accent belie one of Britain's most astute football brains, denies two charges of cheating the public revenue while he managed Portsmouth Football Club between 2002 and 2007. Milan Mandaric, 73, who owned the club at the time, denies similar charges.

According to the prosecution, Mr Mandaric paid Mr Redknapp money in three instalments via a company in Miami as illicit commissions ("bungs" in sports parlance) on the sale prices of players, including sometime England striker Peter Crouch, to other clubs.

The money was paid into the HSBC account in Monaco in the name of Rosie47 - the dog's name plus the year of Mr Redknapp's birth - and "both parties must have known" they were avoiding taxes, John Black, the prosecuting barrister, told the court.

"These payments were a bung or offshore bonus that the parties had absolutely no intention of paying taxes for," Mr Black said.

Jurors were told that the existence of the account came to light during an inquiry into illicit payments in football in 2006.

"The existence of the bank account was not registered to Revenue and Customs for a period of six years [in 2008], two months after Mr Redknapp was first arrested and questioned in the course of this investigation," said Mr Black.

"You will see that the payments have been variously characterised as employment income, as a loan, as a gift and, in some instances, a combination of all or some of them."

In interviews played to the jury, Mr Redknapp, who has previously been investigated over commission he was alleged to have received at West Ham following the sale of the defender Rio Ferdinand, said he was "sick and tired" of bung slurs.

"If there is any mud to be thrown, I seem to get on the end of it for whatever reason," he told the Stevens Inquiry into illicit payments in football.

"A friend said to me: 'Your problem is your name, Harry, and you have got a Cockney accent'. I don't care who looks or how hard because there is nothing on me in this world."

In a separate interview in 2009, the millionaire Mr Redknapp, whose defence team will present their arguments to the court next week, scoffed at the idea that he had set up the Rosie47 account because he needed to avoid paying £30,000 (Dh173,000) in tax.

Interviewed by police, he said all his financial affairs were in the hands of his accountants. "I pay my accountant a fortune to look after me. I am completely and utterly disorganised. I write like a two-year-old and I can't spell."

The jury is expected to start deliberations towards the end of next week.

Mr Redknapp himself is not sure he even wants the England team job, despite recent reports that he and David Beckham might link up in a managerial "dream team".

"It's a difficult one," he said in a BBC TV interview this month.

"If it came along, it would be difficult to turn it down, I think, for any Englishman. It's the pinnacle for any Englishman to manage their country."

But he added: "I enjoy the day to day ... going out on the training pitch every day, seeing the players, being involved every day.

"Seeing players once every six or seven weeks would be different for me and I'd find it very difficult. I'd get very bored I would imagine".

Nobody doubts, though, that Harry Redknapp has the bulldog spirit necessary for the job.

The question is whether that spirit can survive a mauling over a bulldog's bank account.

 

dsapsted@thenational.ae