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Rangers fans call on government to investigate HMRC leak

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Furious Rangers fans, buoyed by the recent decision by the First Tier Tribunal into the Ibrox club’s use of Employee Benefit Trusts are demanding to know how confidential documents were released to the public domain through various outlets – including the Rangers Tax Case Blog.

Fans have created a petition calling on the government to investigate HMRC and their handling of the EBT investigation into Rangers Football Club.

With the verdict in the FTT going the way of Rangers, the fans are now looking for action against those who leaked confidential information relating to the club’s finances, their employees and the progression of the investigation also.

According to those who started the petition, they said: “The source of this leak must be identified and dealt with accordingly due to the serious breach of protocols and completely undermining the role in which HMRC are charged facilitating.”

Glasgow South West MP Ian Davidson, whose constituency covers Ibrox, said: “There is an issue for HMRC about what seems to be a steady leak of information about Rangers’ financial circumstances and the progress of the tax case which causes some concern — and I think that is an issue for them to examine internally.”

“Leaking information in this way about the confidential affairs of a taxpayer is, as I understand it, a criminal offence, so it is not just a matter for the HMRC. What we need is for those who have relayed their concerns to me to approach HMRC or the police with any evidence that they have.

“Once the evidence has come forward then there should be consideration given about the appropriate route to take. In the event there is no formal proof coming forward then HMRC will have to consider — given what seems to have been happening but what is not provable — what internal inquiry is appropriate.”

Two out of the three judges who oversaw the FTT, ruled that the money in the EBTs were loans and not illicit side payments given to players and directors of the club, however despite these being ruled as loans and claimed to be as loans by the club it is reported that those who benefited from the EBTs would not need to pay the money back.

There has also been musings from the likes of Craig Whyte and former members of the board before Whyte took over, that the big tax case, chased off potential suitors and that forced the club into the spiraling decline we saw start from February 2012. With that perceived debt hanging over the club, the old club went into liquidation – on the back of Craig Whyte failing to pay PAYE and NI that was owed to HMRC from when he took the club over – with the new side playing in the Third Division, after losing its top players and being blocked entry to the SPL following a fans revolt demanding sporting integrity wins out.

There has been much finger pointing over the course of this long drawn out saga, however the Rangers fans must remember that those to blame are much closer to home. They took up residence in the Ibrox board room, they failed to pay what was owed to HMRC and while they now claim that the big tax case scared off potential suitors – so did the level of debt that was at the club out with the tax case, and Sir David Murray’s attempts to negotiate a deal with them for around £11 million didn’t help the side either.

New media has also been blamed for conducting a campaign of attrition against Rangers during the issue. You could argue for and against this stance, but one thing is clear up until February 2012 when the club went into administration, the mainstream media were failing its dwindling readership. They peddled articles that were hand fed to them first by Murray and then by Whyte claiming that everything was rosy etc. If these journalists and editors had bothered to do a wee bit of digging then maybe just maybe the truth could have come out quicker than it did, maybe just maybe Whyte would never have secured the club for that £1 he paid with.

Bloggers, the twitterati and a small band of journalists did look into Whyte and his dealings, but for Rangers fans it was seen as an attack on their club and the man who saved them from Sir David Murray – a man who they rounded on for causing huge amounts of debt at the club in a bid for glory domestically and in Europe. It was only near to the time that the club went into administration that the Rangers fans began to believe the worst, that these bloggers, the small band of journalists and twitterati were right about Whyte all along.

One particular blogger, the Rangers Tax Case blogger, won the Orwell Prize over his investigation into the Whyte saga and the big tax case. His blog posts have now disappeared, but one remains, a statement released after the FTT decision was announced.

It read: “The tax case result released yesterday afternoon was obviously a surprise. After reading the findings, it is still difficult to understand how two of the three judges arrived at such a decision. The third dissenting judge’s opinion was clearly more in line with expectations. However, in the First Tier Tribunal it is a case of majority rule.

“If an appeal is launched, it will take several more months before we get the next level of decision. Appeals are not automatically granted, but in this case- with a dissenting judge and where a dispute over legal interpretation exists already- it seems certain. At the Upper Tribunal, new evidence is not introduced and the case is not re-argued. The judges at the Upper Tribunal will hear legal arguments over whether the First Tier Tribunal judges made an error in interpreting the law and will rule accordingly. This blog brought light to a matter of public interest. This blog has been accurate on all of the major points of the case except the one that matters most to date- the FTT outcome.

“We thank everyone who has participated. Hopefully, we will see the result reversed on appeal.”

Hindsight is a wonderous thing, and we have all had opinions on this issue and not just from the Celtic-minded fraternity, but from those whose allegiances are of the blue, white and red persuasion also.

HMRC had every right to investigate whether Rangers legally or illegally paid their players through EBTs, if they did not then they would have faced a barrage of criticism from the government, from the ordinary paying punters that they let off another big business from paying its taxes – just like it had done with Vodafone.

While there have been calls for a police investigation to take place into the whole issue, Strathclyde Police have already commented yesterday morning that there is no investigation into HMRC and such an investigation at any rate must go through the Metropolitan Police in London rather than a regional force.

We have contacted the Rangers tax case blogger asking some questions, in particular if his obtaining of information was illegal and that should the Police contact him will he disclose his sources and co-operate fully with an investigation. We are awaiting his reply.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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