LONDON – Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was accused in court Monday of creating a bank account named after a pet dog in a tax haven to “deliberately and dishonestly” hide bonuses from player transfers while at Portsmouth.
Redknapp, who is considered a leading candidate to become the next England coach, went on trial alongside former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric on charges that they concealed payments of $295,000 from Britain’s tax authority during their time working together.
Both Redknapp and Mandaric, who is now chairman at third-tier club Sheffield Wednesday, deny the charges.
On a day in which jurors were shown bank documents, Redknapp was portrayed not only as a talented football manager but also “a hardheaded businessman, with a financial acumen.”
Prosecutors told the court that the 64-year-old Redknapp earned hundreds of thousands of dollars during his managerial career as a bonus from player transfers. At Portsmouth, the club at the heart of the case where Redknapp was director of football and then manager on two occasions between 2002 and 2008, he received bonuses of up to 10 per cent.
The prosecution alleged at London’s Southwark Crown Court that the disputed Portsmouth payments went into a HSBC account in Monaco called Rosie 47, which was named after his dog and date of birth.
“The crown’s case is that the money transferred to that offshore Monaco account was deliberately and dishonestly paid by Mr. Mandaric and was deliberately and dishonestly received by Mr. Redknapp with the intention of concealing them from the U.K. tax authority,” prosecutor John Black said. “These payments were a bung or off-record bonus which the parties have no intention of declaring for tax or ever did.”
A bung is a term used in Britain meaning bribe.
The charges are that Mandaric paid $145,000 into Redknapp’s Rosie 47 account in May 2002 and another $150,000 two years later to avoid paying income tax and national insurance.
Prosecutors say the account was opened in April 2002, shortly after Redknapp received a 115,000 pound-bonus from the sale of striker Peter Crouch to Aston Villa.
Redknapp flew to Monaco “for the specific purpose of setting up a secret account, into which the off-the-record payments could be received,” Black said.
Monaco was chosen because it is “a jurisdiction with a fiscal framework of minimal taxation and a long history of banking secrecy,” Black said, claiming that “this was quite deliberate and was intended to obscure the money trail and render much less transparent the nature and purpose of the payments.”
The existence of the Monaco bank account was first disclosed by Redknapp in 2006 during an investigation into kickbacks in football.
The court heard that Redknapp did not mention the account’s existence between 2004 and 2006 when he was investigated by Britain’s tax authority over his transfer dealings at West Ham, which he managed between 1994 and 2001. That probe was prompted by “concerns” over the 300,000 pound-bonus Redknapp received from the sale of now-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to Leeds from West Ham.
The trial comes as Redknapp’s side lies third in the Premier League, the highest place for a club with an English manager. He is considered a leading choice to replace Fabio Capello as England coach after this year’s European Championship.
“He has gained widespread popularity as a talented football manager,” Black told the jury of eight men and four women. “He is currently enjoying what may be described as football success as manager of Tottenham Hotspur.”
Redknapp managed south coast club Portsmouth, which is now in the second tier, between 2002 and 2004, and returned to Fratton Park in 2005 after a brief spell at its archrival Southampton before moving to Tottenham in 2008.