Portsmouth keen to put off court date

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The Independent Online

Portsmouth's new owner Balram Chainrai is pushing ahead with plans to defer the club's winding-up hearing despite threats of a legal challenge to his takeover.

The Hong Kong-based businessman wants to stabilise the club before selling it on to new owners, and the first step is to try to put off next week's High Court hearing brought by HM Customs and Revenue over a £7.5million VAT bill.

Portsmouth said in a statement: "The club will now apply to HMRC to adjourn next week's winding-up hearing to allow time for the club to be stabilised and new owners found."

Chainrai has taken the 90% shareholding from previous owner Ali Al Faraj after exercising a clause in the agreement relating to a £17million loan made by his company Portpin to the club.

However Mark Jacob, the British lawyer appointed to the Portsmouth board by Faraj, is contesting whether the takeover can go through - claiming that neither party has complied with the loan agreement.

As far as the club are concerned, there is no issue and they have confirmed Chainrai, a Nepalese-born 51-year-old, as the new owner - their fourth of the season with a fifth possible before the summer.

The club's statement said: "Balram Chainrai has exercised a clause in the security arrangement with Falcondrone Ltd [Al Faraj's company] to take a controlling interest in Portsmouth Football Club.

"Mr Chainrai wishes to stabilise the club's situation until new owners for the club are found.

"The security arrangement with Falcondrone Ltd is based on documents drawn up by Fuglers law firm as part of the original draw down of the loan, depositing with Mr Chainrai the original share certificate and a signed but undated share transfer in favour of Mr Chainrai, which could be dated and exercised in the event of default on the terms of the loan agreement.

"Peter Storrie continues as the chief executive officer of the club and continues to run the club. Meanwhile new owners are being found for the long-term future of the club."

The takeover also means the end of the involvement of Daniel Azougy, the controversial Israeli lawyer convicted of fraud in his home country, who has been working as a financial advisor for Al Faraj.

The takeover should also herald the end of the involvement of Jacob, who works for Fuglers law firm, and was appointed as a club director by Al Faraj.

The statement added: "New directors will be appointed to the board and Daniel Azougy will no longer be involved with any part of the club.

"The importance and priority is to stabilise the business and give the players, staff and fans of Portsmouth FC confidence that the club will go forward."

Chainrai will have to satisfy the Premier League's 'fit and proper person' test.

A Premier League spokesman said: "Any new owners and/or directors will have to satisfy Premier League rules."

Portpin is owned by Chainrai, who has a British passport, along with an Israeli business partner Levi Kushnir.

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