Venables says he can prove his innocence

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TERRY Venables, the beleaguered England football coach, last night said he had 'not a shred of doubt' that he could defend himself against a Serious Fraud Office inquiry into his business affairs.

Mr Venables, the subject of a second BBC Panorama documentary tomorrow, said it was 'utterly scandalous' that new allegations had been passed from the Department of Trade and Industry to the SFO without his knowledge.

'I am happy that I can address all the allegations made against me,' he said. 'There has been no impropriety on my part and I have not a shred of doubt that I can prove it.' In a later statement he said he would take legal action against the BBC to clear his name.

The Independent disclosed yesterday that the SFO was studying a 400-page dossier compiled by from four investigations by DTI inspectors.

The BBC was keeping its new allegations under wraps yesterday. However, confidential letters from Panorama to Mr Venables and Eddie Ashby, his former assistant at Tottenham Hotspur, indicate that matters raised in the first Panorama programme, in September 1993, will be re-examined.

The letter to Mr Venables invites him to discuss new allegations relating to his use of the proceeds of the sale of his shares in the club after he parted acrimoniously from co-owner Alan Sugar, chairman of Amstrad. Mr Venables and Mr Ashby declined to appear in the programme.

According to the letters, allegations revolve around: Statements Mr Venables made in offer documents during the Tottenham takeover in 1991. It is thought this relates to a paragraph in the takeover proposal in which Mr Venables promises to buy pounds 750,000 worth of shares from his own reserves. Alan Sugar has alleged that this money was never forthcoming; Mr Venables will argue that he did fulfill this commitment.

A pounds 1m loan from Landhurst Leasing, which has been the subject of an earlier SFO inquiry. The first Panorama alleged that Mr Venables secured the loan from Landhurst Leasing on a sale and leaseback arrangement using the assets of Transatlantic Inns Ltd, a company supposedly owning four pubs, from which he had already resigned as a director.

The programme-makers will say that such an action was fraudulent, that he had no right to sell assets he did not own, and that one of the pubs did not exist. But Mr Venables insists that the pounds 1m loan from Landhurst was not secured on Transatlantic assets. Mr Ashby said yesterday that the loan was unsecured, attracting a 23 per cent interest rate as a result.

A charge taken by Mr Venables over Tottenham shares owned by his company, Edennote Ltd. It is understood questions will be asked about the legality of taking out the charge over the shares ahead of other Edennote creditors and making himself a secured creditor when the company ran into difficulty in August 1993.

However, the Venables camp argues that all creditors were paid once Mr Venables sold his shares for pounds 3m in September 1993. The only remaining debts are in respect of Mr Sugar's solicitors, Herbert Smith, who are claiming pounds 300,000 costs from earlier legal action, and Mr Venables himself, who was contracted to Tottenham as a footballing consultant through Edennote.

Mr Venables' relationship with Mr Ashby, an undischarged bankrupt employed by Mr Venables as a personal assistant. Questions will be asked over the way Mr Ashby was employed via Gearbury Ltd, a company owned by his wife, Vicki, and son.

Gearbury was paid pounds 6,500 plus VAT a month for Mr Ashby's services. It is thought the programme will argue that this was excessive and that the method of payment - via a company - prevented Mr Ashby's creditors from benefiting from the payments. But the Venables camp says the full board of Tottenham, including Alan Sugar, approved Mr Ashby's employment and endorsed it in September 1992 in the presence of auditors.

In The Independent tomorrow: The Truth About Terry Venables

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