Harry Redknapp takes to the stand over tax charges

 

Football boss Harry Redknapp told a jury today: "I have always paid my taxes."

The Tottenham Hotspur manager said he hired the best accountants in London to keep his books.

Entering the witness box to give evidence at his tax evasion trial at Southwark Crown Court, Redknapp said: "I have always paid my taxes. I've always gone to the best available people...

"I have always paid too much tax rather than not enough."

When asked about his relationship with co-accused Milan Mandaric, Redknapp said they hit it off within an hour of meeting.

"There was no-one in the world I would rather be with," Redknapp said. "We had our ups and downs, I was a bit volatile perhaps. Even now I love his company."

Redknapp told the court his only previous charge was for speeding.

As defence QC John Kelsey-Fry began his questioning, Redknapp confirmed he had received a £300,000 gift from West Ham United for the sale of Rio Ferdinand to Leeds United.

Bespectacled Redknapp, wearing a blue suit with black sweater, said the Hammers told him he had done "fantastic".

He said: "The club was not contractually obligated to pay that money I suppose."

Both former Portsmouth boss Redknapp, 64, and Mandaric, 73, deny cheating the public revenue with £189,000 payments into a Monaco account.

There was laughter in court shortly before the lunch adjournment as Mr Kelsey-Fry said Redknapp's success in football was "much to the displeasure" of Mandaric's QC Lord Ken Macdonald.

Redknapp, looking over the rim of his glasses, said: "Well he's an Arsenal supporter isn't he."

The prosecution alleged earlier that the multimillionaire football boss was sent bungs into his Monaco bank account because he was "greedy".

In heated exchanges with former Portsmouth FC chairman Mandaric, John Black QC said the alleged tax dodge was "all about Mr Redknapp and he was greedy and wanted more money".

The barrister asked Mandaric: "That's the truth isn't it?"

Mandaric, standing in the box, replied: "Absolutely not true."

Mandaric told jurors earlier that Redknapp "was paid millions of pounds. He was paid fairly... there was no issue whatsoever."

Mandaric told the court he had paid £100million in taxes during his time in football, adding: "Did I suddenly go crazy?"

A 150,000 US dollar (£96,300) deposit was made after Portsmouth beat Manchester United in 2004.

Mandaric denied the incidents were connected, adding: "We were a better team, better manager."

He said the sum deposited in Monaco "was money that I was going to develop his portfolio" with.

During cross-examination, Mandaric added: "We can go over and over, Mr Black. I respect your job and everything but I cannot deviate from the truth. Simple as that."

Mandaric denied Redknapp was unhappy over disputes about a bonus due after a £3million profit Portsmouth made on the sale of Peter Crouch.

"I would not say an unhappy Mr Redknapp, that's not fair to say," Mandaric said. "Overall he was a happy manager."

Mandaric accused Mr Black of "correlating", adding: "You are connecting these things."

"I am going back with sadness and unrepairable damages to myself and my family and I am asking why," he told the court.

He "enjoyed so much pride" in his work at Portsmouth, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday but "unfortunately my enthusiastic tank is going down to empty".

"It's really sad that I have to defend that for the simple reason that I came here 12 years ago with a lot of enthusiasm for football," he said.

Mandaric said "there was never any dialogue saying 'Let's try to hide this account"' with Redknapp.

"I am not a wrong person, nobody that knows me would say I would do anything wrong," he said. "The only correlation here is that I was chairman but, for God's sake, can I not have my employees as friends?"

Mandaric is "a man of intelligence and integrity and his word was as good as gold", business associate Michael Tomana told the court.

The chief executive of technology investment firm Redleaf Group in Pittsburgh, US, said: "He had an outstanding reputation...a man of uncommon intelligence, integrity, high moral calibre, a good family man."

The businessman added: "Milan will race you up the stairs on the subway - he doesn't drive around in a limousine."

Mr Tomana said he had about 1,000 business associates, adding: "I would rate Milan in the top five of every person I have worked with."

Mandaric became a freeman of Portsmouth in 2003, the court heard.

Former Lord Mayor David Horne said: "I don't believe there was a dishonest hair on his body.

"He was somebody that you can relate to and certainly he was somebody who can be trusted, the way he conducted himself business wise...he was highly respected."

Jurors have been told that Redknapp denied tax dodging to police, saying: "I write like a two-year-old and I can't spell."

Redknapp also urged detectives to ask his solicitor if he had "ever come across anyone as bad, business wise".

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 the 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.

PA

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