LONDON // Harry Redknapp, the Premier League manager tipped to become England coach later this year, was cleared yesterday of tax evasion by opening an offshore account in the name of one of his dogs.
Mr Redknapp, the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, had denied receiving illicit payments on the sale of players – "bungs" in footballing parlance – totalling £189,000 (Dh1.1m), and avoiding paying tax by having the money deposited in an account he opened in Monaco 10 years ago in the name of one of his pet bull dogs.
After a two-week trial at a London court, the jury accepted Mr Redknapp's version that the money was a gift unrelated to football, from Milan Mandaric – who was also cleared of two charges of cheating the taxman – when they were, respectively, manager and owner of Portsmouth Football Club.
Had 64-year-old Mr Redknapp been convicted, he would have had little chance of succeeding Fabio Capello, the England coach who is leaving when his contract expires after this summer’s European Championship.
When the jury returned its verdict after five hours’ deliberation, Mr Redknapp and Mr Mandaric, 73, hugged each other in the dock.
Outside the court, Mr Redknapp described his prosecution as “a nightmare” and maintained that the case, arising out of three payments deposited by Mr Mandaric via a US company between 2002 and 2007, should never have been brought.
He said: “I just have to thank the fans, especially the fans of Tottenham the other night – the Wigan game [last week] was the most moving I’ve ever felt. For me personally to have them singing my name throughout the game while all this was going on, that will always be special to me. I’ll never forget that.
“I’m really just looking forward to getting home and seeing my wife Sandra and getting away from all this. It really has been a nightmare.”
It was Mr Redknapp himself who sparked the investigation into his tax affairs when, in 2006, he revealed the existence of the Monaco account while being questioned by police and tax officials investigating “bungs” in the world of English football.
The acquittals of Mr Redknapp and Mr Mandaric means that the five-year probe into “bungs”, which cost the taxpayer £8million, has failed to result in a single conviction.