Venables is accused over pounds 1m promise

England coach denies wrongdoing over cash guarantee used to buy stake i n football club
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The Independent Online
Terry Venables, the England football coach, will be accused tonight of not telling the truth about the existence of a personal guarantee of more than pounds 1m used to raise a loan to buy his share of Tottenham Hotspur FC.

A BBC Panorama investigation into Mr Venables' business affairs claims that he tried to avoid meeting his loan responsibilities when the written guarantee went missing from a safe at Landhurst Leasing, the company that provided the money.

The programme makes the most serious allegations since Mr Venables' business dealings came under scrutiny last year. Last night, Eddie Ashby, his personal assistant, said that the England coach had proof that the allegations were unfounded.

In his recent autobiography Mr Venables claimed to have obtained a personal `` pounds 1m unsecured loan'' to use as part of his stake in the joint purchase in 1991 of Tottenham with Alan Sugar, the Amstrad chairman. But the programme's journalists, Mark Killick and Martin Bashir, say the money was in fact raised by a sale and leaseback agreement relating to pubs owned by Transatlantic Inns, a company of which Mr Venables used to be a director.

Panorama alleges that the pubs' assets were sold without the knowledge of Transatlantic's board after Mr Venables had resigned from it. Further, they allege that one of the pubs, the ``Miners'' in Cardiff, does not even exist.

Mr Venables and Mr Ashby have consistently denied any wrongdoing and say the loan was not raised on Transatlantic assets but was an unsecured personal loan.

However, the programme makers claim to have found evidence to suggest that the loan was arranged between Mr Venables' company Edennote Ltd and Landhurst Leasing, with Mr Venables providing a personal guarantee. Landhurst Leasing collapsed in 1992, but when the receivers went to fetch Mr Venables' personal guarantee from the company safe, it had been removed. There is no suggestion that Mr Venables had anything to do with its disappearance. Mr Ashby said no personal guarantee was ever signed by Mr Venables.

The amount owing, including interest, was pounds 1.4m, according to the Panorama team. Mr Venables offered pounds 150,000 and later increased this sum to pounds 700,000, leaving Landhurst's creditors pounds 700,000 out of pocket.

The programme also examines an arrangement whereby Mr Venables made himself a secured creditor of Edennote shortly before it went into liquidation last year. This enabled him to take pounds 435,000 out of the company ahead of other creditors. Panorama says this was unlawful but Mr Ashby said the money was paid back into the company a few days later. He also said the amount owing to Landhurst Leasing was never pounds 1.4m and that the programme does not take into account repayments already made by Mr Venables. He said arrangements were in hand to repay the rest. Mr Venables was not available for comment.

The Independent disclosed on Saturday that the Serious Fraud Office was examining a 400-page dossier on Mr Venables' business affairs gleaned from four Department of Trade and Industry investigations. The SFO has not yet decided whether to launch a formal inquiry but Mr Venables said he had ``not a shred of doubt'' that he could clear his name.

Last night, Mr Ashby said the central allegations - about the Landhurst Leasing loan and Transatlantic Inns' assets - were untrue.

``We never used any of the assets as security,'' he said. ``It was an unsecured loan. We have been interviewed by the SFO when it was examining Landhurst's affairs but we were treated as witnesses in that inquiry. The subject of the investigation was Landhurst because I understand it was taking out loans from banks on the basis that when it re-lent the money to companies like ours, it was supposed to make sure the lender provided a personal guarantee or assets as security. It seems it did not always get these guarantees.

``To my knowledge Terry never provided a personal guarantee and as for the pub that doesn't exist, we've never heard of it either.''

Question of integrity, page 19

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