Harry Redknapp has 'back to the wall' court hears

 

Jurors hearing Harry Redknapp's tax evasion trial were warned today to "keep their eyes on the ball" when they consider their verdicts.

The prosecution alleged that the Tottenham Hotspur manager was "driven with his back to the wall to lie" when he claimed he gave a sports journalist false information about why over £90,000 was paid into his Monaco bank account.

Redknapp, 64, told London's Southwark Crown Court this week that the money was given to him in 2002 by Milan Mandaric, 73, his former boss at Portsmouth Football Club, as an investment that had nothing to do with his employment.

But prosecutor John Black QC urged the jury in a closing speech to conclude that the sum was in fact a bonus paid to Redknapp arising from Portsmouth's profits on the sale of striker Peter Crouch to Aston Villa.

He said tax was "in the nature of the game" in the football industry and Redknapp knew he had to pay it on his income, including any bonuses.

Mr Black told the jury: "You may have little difficulty in concluding that if it was a bonus, no tax was deducted, no tax was paid - and indeed no tax has ever been paid in relation to that bonus as we stand here in 2012."

The trial heard that Redknapp told former News of the World sports reporter Rob Beasley in a taped conversation in 2009 that Mandaric paid the money into his Monaco account as a bonus relating to the sale of Crouch for a £3 million profit.

But in evidence, the manager said he told the journalist the wrong information to prevent a story appearing in the Sunday tabloid as Spurs took on Manchester United in the 2009 League Cup final.

Redknapp told the court yesterday: "I don't have to tell Mr Beasley the truth. I have to tell police the truth, not Mr Beasley, he's a News of the World reporter."

Mr Black rejected this claim, telling jurors: "Apparently it's all right for Mr Redknapp to lie - 'the difference, I suppose, is I'm on oath here, I wasn't then'.

"In a way he has no choice if he has to run the investment defence. How is he to explain his interview with Mr Beasley? He's driven with his back to the wall to lie."

The prosecutor told the four women and eight men of the jury it was important to "keep one's eye on the ball" and not be influenced by anything in the media about the case.

Redknapp, of Poole, Dorset, and Mandaric, of Oadby, Leicestershire, deny two counts of cheating the public revenue when Redknapp was manager of Portsmouth Football Club.

The first charge of cheating the public revenue alleges that between April 1 2002 and November 28 2007 Mandaric paid 145,000 US dollars (£93,100) into Redknapp's Monaco account.

The second charge for the same offence relates to a sum of 150,000 US dollars (£96,300) allegedly paid between May 1 2004 and November 28 2007.

Mr Black argued that what Redknapp told Mr Beasley was "the most compelling and important evidence" in the case.

He told the jury: "The problem for Mr Redknapp was that he knew perfectly well what was happening, and he in an unguarded moment on a tape with the News of the World journalist told it as it was. That in a sense condemns him from his own mouth."

The prosecutors said jurors had to decide whether Redknapp was unhappy about only getting 5% from the profits of Peter Crouch's sale rather than the 10% he would have received under his original contract with Portsmouth.

Referring to the money paid into the Monaco account, he said: "Was it simply a coincidence that it was £100,000, not that far away from the 5% that Mr Redknapp had lost as a result of the re-negotiated contract?

"Was that a simple coincidence, or is it the case that that money was paid into his account to make up for the shortfall as a bonus?"

Mr Black added: "It may not be popular to say that about a man who is respected in the business, a very good football manager, who has very many qualities.

"The fact is this bonus was paid into an account in Monaco, and no tax was paid on it."

Redknapp, wearing a dark suit with black jumper, sat in the dock listening to Mr Black's speech, at different times yawning, shaking his head at the prosecutor's claims and folding his arms.

Redknapp, who underwent minor heart surgery last year to unblock his arteries, led Portsmouth to FA Cup success and Spurs to last season's Champions League quarter-finals.

Mandaric is now chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, having previously worked at Leicester.

The jurors were sent home until Monday, when they will hear closing speeches from defence lawyers.

PA

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