Friend of Venables wins BBC damages

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The Independent Online
By Tim Kelsey

The BBC is to pay substantial damages to a business associate of Terry Venables, the England football manager, after accusing him of corruption. A formal announcement is due in the High Court this morning.

The Independent understands that Panorama is to apologise to Gino Santin, who sued for libel following allegations in a documentary last year that he had taken a secret payment from Mr Venables during the transfer of Paul Gascoigne to the Italian club Lazio.

Panorama alleged that Mr Venables, former Tottenham Hotspur chief executive, used subterfuge during the transfer to arrange for the payment of £200,000 into the Swiss bank account of Mr Santin, a London restaurant owner who was a close friend. Mr Venables has said that Mr Santin "made all the difference" to the transfer, lifting the deal for Spurs above the price of £5.5m - through interest payments and matches between the clubs - by £800,000.

He has also said the £200,000 fee to Mr Santin was "totally merited" for helping to raise the Gascoigne fee and denied that any of the money found its way back to him. Mr Santin commented at the time: "I did a job for Tottenham and I was paid for it. It was all above board." He said he had been involved in several big soccer transfers.

The BBC confirmed last night that Panorama had agreed to pay "substantial" damages to Mr Santin, and to apologise to him. The BBC added: "We continue to stand by the programme in regard to Terry Venables. The Santin case has no relation to that."

Mr Venables has started separate proceedings against Panorama.

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