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Milan Mandaric takes to stand in Harry Redknapp trial


The football chairman accused of sending bungs to Harry Redknapp told a court today how Apple co-founder Steve Jobs helped make him rich.

Milan Mandaric told jurors he became a billionaire in computing after a poverty-stricken childhood.

The Croatia-born Serb said Jobs handed him one of his first contracts after he emigrated to the US and opened factories manufacturing circuit boards.

Mandaric, 73, told Southwark Crown Court he moved with his family to California after a troubled upbringing.

"It was a very difficult time in those days," he told jurors.

"For four years we were in mountains hiding from enemies while my father was taken to a concentration camp.

"When we returned, our village, it was destroyed. It was difficult days, difficult for everyone living in that part of the world."

Mandaric made a deal with Apple computing pioneer Jobs as his company - called Lika after his hometown - rapidly expanded during the 1970s.

As he took to the stand, Mandaric said: "I was quite successful.

"Somebody asks me the reason for my success - I say, 'I was in the right place at the right time'.

"Silicon Valley was just getting started and I was a part of that."

After building seven factories in Los Angeles, he sold the company to Tandy in 1980.

"It was quite a good deal for me and other shareholders," Mandaric said. "It put quite a smile on my face."

Mandaric, from Oadby, Leicestershire, and Tottenham Hotspur manager Redknapp, of Poole, Dorset, deny two counts of cheating the public revenue when Redknapp was manager of Portsmouth Football Club.

Mandaric told the court he became interested in owning football clubs as the sport began to expand in America.

He was involved in deals to bring football stars including Bobby Moore, George Best and Pele to the new US league, he said.

It was during this time that Mandaric became aware of Redknapp as a manager, he told the court.

Mandaric said: "In 35 years in football, I never had a closer relationship as a manager than I had with Harry."

When first questioned about his relationship with Redknapp by counsel Lord Macdonald QC, Mandaric joked: "When I tried to strangle him or when I love him?"

Redknapp joined Portsmouth - initially as a director of football - in 2001.

Mandaric said he asked Redknapp to take on managerial responsibilities as they became close.

When asked about Portsmouth's promotion the Premier League, Mandaric said: "It was a dream for me, it was a goal that I desperately wanted to achieve for those wonderful people in the city."

Asked about payments sent to the Monaco account, he added: "I want to do something special for Harry because he means more to me than a football manager. This was something as a friend."

The £189,000 payments were "something entirely different", he added.

"If this was something to do with employment, I would have done something entirely different," Mandaric said.

"This is entirely my voluntary thanks without contract. Something special for my friend from football into friendship territory. That's all I wanted to do."

He added: "I want to make it absolutely clear that it was completely away from his duties, his bonuses, his salaries... It has nothing to do with it. It is an entirely different subject."

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.

The case continues.