LONDON: West Ham and Newcastle are both under investigation after the clubs’ stadium offices and other properties were raided by 180 tax investigators.
An operation undertaken with the French authorities, and involving similar raids in France, concerned allegations of fraud to the extent of £5m concerning income tax and social security payments. Financial records, computers and mobile phones were among items seized.
The operation overshadowed Newcastle’s celebrations after the club, on Monday, secured promotion back to the Premier League at first attempt. Newcastle’s managing director, Lee Charnley, was among “several men within professional football” reported to have been arrested.
Charnley, 39, was appointed three years ago and has been credited with having persuading manager Rafa Benitez to stay at the club after relegation a year ago.
Tax officers also visited offices belonging to Chelsea “in connection with its wider investigation” but the premises were not raided and no arrests were made.
West Ham confirmed the raid in a statement saying that it was “co-operating fully with HMRC to assist their inquiries.”
In January, a UK parliamentary committee of inquiry stated that 43 players, 12 clubs and eight agents were the subject of “open inquiries” by the tax office (Her Majesty’s Office of Revenue and Customs). The committee highlighted concerns about tax evasion within football, in particular over suspected misuse of image rights.
Newcastle secured promotion, following Brighton, after a 4-1 victory over Preston. Benitez, however, is worried about whether owner Mike Ashley, one of the most controversial businessmen in the UK, will provide the finance necessary to improve the squad.