Tottenham Hotspur manager and Sheffield Wednesday owner cleared of evading tax on ?189,000 paid into offshore account
The Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric, the owner of Sheffield Wednesday, have been cleared of evading tax on payments totalling ?189,000 that were made by Mandaric into Redknapp's offshore bank account while the two men were at Portsmouth football club.
Redknapp told reporters outside court he had been through a five-year-long "nightmare", adding that the case "should never have come to court".
Both Redknapp, who served as manager of Portsmouth, and Mandaric, the club's former owner, had denied the charges during the three-week trial at Southwark crown court, arguing that the money was given as a gesture of friendship and had nothing to do with Redknapp's job.
Mandaric and Redknapp embraced in the dock as the verdicts were read out after five hours of deliberations.
Redknapp immediately left the court, while Mandaric walked up to Detective Inspector Dave Manley to shake his hand and say: "Thank you."
Outside, Redknapp, still emotional, said: "I must thanks the fans at Tottenham, especially the other night.
"The Wigan game was the most moving I've ever felt, to have the fans singing my name throughout the game while all this was going on. That will always be special to me and I will never forget that. Most importantly, [thanks] to my family, who have really pulled through it these last five years that this has been hanging over us. I'm really just looking forward to getting home ? It really has been a nightmare, I've got to be honest. And this is a case that should never have come to court. It's unbelievable, really."
He said waiting for the verdict had been "horrendous ? But it was a unanimous decision, absolutely unanimous ? there was no case to answer."
A Tottenham Hotspur spokesman said: "Everyone at the club is delighted for Harry and his family. This has been hanging over him for over four years and the last two weeks have been particularly difficult. We are pleased to see this resolved and we all look forward to the rest of the season."
Speaking outside court, Mandaric said: "I would rather not talk much now, and I'm quite sure you understand that.
"I've got to go somewhere to try to pinch myself and wake me up from that horrible dream that I had in the past.
"As we said in the statements, I always believed in the truth, and always believed in the British justice system."
Redknapp's son Jamie greeted his father with a hug outside court.
Manley ? who was shouted at by Redknapp during proceedings ? made no comment other than saying: "I accept the court's decision."
Chris Martin, of HM Revenue and Customs, said in a statement: "We have no regrets about pursuing this case because it was vitally important that the facts were put before a jury for their consideration.
"We accept the verdict of the jury but I would like to remind those who are evading tax by using offshore tax havens that it always makes sense to come forward and talk to us before we come to talk to you."
The first charge of cheating the public revenue alleged that between 1 April 2002 and 28 November 2007 Mandaric paid $145,000 (?93,100) into the account.
The second charge for the same offence related to a sum of $150,000 (?96,300) allegedly paid between 1 May 2004 and 28 November 2007.
The prosecution had claimed that the two sums represented bonuses for Redknapp and were therefore eligible to have tax paid on them. Redknapp received the first payment from Mandaric, it was said, to make up for money he lost on the profitable sale of Peter Crouch to Aston Villa in 2002.
After Crouch was sold, Portsmouth paid Redknapp a bonus of ?115,473, representing 5% of the net profit, with PAYE tax and national insurance deducted. Mandaric acknowledged that Redknapp was unhappy with that figure as he felt he was due 10% of the profits because he had had to work hard to convince his boss to sign Crouch in the first place.
Four days after he received the ?115,473 from Portsmouth, Redknapp went to Monaco on Mandaric's suggestion and personal recommendation to open the bank account.
Redknapp told the court that when asked to chose a password for the account, he had opted for Rosie47, in honour of his pet bulldog and the year of his birth. A month later, Mandaric paid the $145,000 into the Monaco account.
Mandaric described the first payment as "seed money", given to "do something special for Harry" and intended to help his friend grow profitable investments. He also denied the second payment of $150,000 was in any way connected to Redknapp's job, saying it was merely paid into the account because the investments had lost their value and he felt "embarrassed" by the losses, as he had a reputation as shrewd investor.
Redknapp had repeatedly denied being "silly" enough to entertain the notion of avoiding tax, saying he had paid ?1m in tax in 2008 and was not "any kind of tax fiddler". He was, he added, "the most ungreedy person you have ever met in your whole life, ever".
However, he admitted under cross-examination that he had lied to a News of the World reporter who had challenged him in 2009 about where the money came from by telling him that the first payment was a bonus to make up for the money he had lost on the Crouch sale.
Redknapp, 64, said he had told Rob Beasley that the money was a bonus ? thus contradicting Mandaric's claim that it was an unrelated investment account ? to get rid of the reporter.
"I don't have to tell Mr Beasley the truth," Redknapp said. "I have to tell the police the truth, but not Mr Beasley. He's a News of the World reporter." He said he had decided to lie because he did not want to read a story in the paper on the day Spurs were due to take on Manchester United in the 2009 League Cup final.
Mandaric, 73, was also adamant that he had never sought to evade tax.
He told the court: "I did not know what the word [evade] means," adding that over six years his companies paid a total of ?55m in taxes.
Redknapp, who underwent minor heart surgery last year to unblock his arteries, is the most successful English manager in the Premier League era, having led Portsmouth to FA Cup success and Spurs to last season's Uefa Champions League quarter-finals.
Mandaric bought Sheffield Wednesday in 2010, having previously owned Leicester City.