Harry Redknapp was "condemned from his own mouth" in an interview with a reporter from the now defunct tabloid the News of the World according to the prosecutor in the Tottenham Hotspur manager's trial for tax evasion, a court heard yesterday.
The 64-year-old listened at Southwark Crown Court while John Black QC said that Redknapp's 2009 interview with Rob Beasley, then a News of the World reporter, which has been played to the court during the trial, was "the most compelling and important evidence in the case".
Redknapp and his former chairman at Portsmouth, Milan Mandaric, face two charges of tax evasion over payments of £93,000 and £96,000 to a Monaco bank account between 2002 and 2004. Both men have claimed in court that the account was for seed money for an investment to be opened by Mandaric on Redknapp's behalf.
Black, who submits the money was a bonus for the sale of Peter Crouch in 2002 paid offshore in order to avoid tax, urged the jury to ignore their preconceptions about the News of the World and Beasley, who previously gave evidence in person. In the tape, Redknapp denies Mandaric's explanation that the payments were seed money for an investment and instead insisted they were a bonus for the £4.5m sale of Crouch.
In his closing speech, Mr Black said: "It couldn't be plainer than those words uttered to a series of pretty simple questions as to what was the nature of the payment into his [Redknapp's] account. 'The money was paid to me by Milan as a bonus for selling Peter Crouch'. These are not my words, they are Harry Redknapp's words on a tape, as plain as a pikestaff.
"It may not be popular to say that about a man [Redknapp] respected in the business with many qualities but the fact is that this bonus was paid into an account in Monaco and no tax was paid on it. He doesn't like Mr Beasley and was at great pains to have a pop at the News of the World, with some justification.
"He wanted him to go away and he had his mind on a cup final so he said 'I lied to Mr Beasley, he's News of the World'. Apparently, it's allowed for Mr Redknapp to lie. The difference, he says, is "I'm on oath here [in court]. I wasn't then'.
"In a way he has no choice if he is to run the investment defence. How does he explain Mr Beasley [the interview]? He is driven with his back to the wall to lie." Later Black added: "In an unguarded moment on tape with the News of the World journalist he told it how he was. That, in a sense, condemns him from his own mouth."
Mandaric has claimed that the initial investment in the United States was lost and he later put more money into the account, part of which was to be a nominal profit for Redknapp, in order to save face. "There isn't a single piece of paper to account for the profit and loss on the investment on Mr Redknapp's money," Black said.
The Crown also claimed that Redknapp had been inconsistent in his evidence, claiming he did not know how much was in the account, despite having said in an interview for the Quest investigation in 2006 there was $120,000 in it. "He has once again been caught out by his own words," Black said. The defence closing speeches are on Monday. Both men deny the charges. The case continues.