June 23 – An HM Revenue and Customs raid on newly promoted Newcastle United’s offices, made at the end of April this year, may have been unlawful and the search-and-seize order HMRC obtained to launch the raid should be subject to judicial review a judge has ruled.
The ruling, by Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting in London, means that a full High Court hearing will be held, probably over 27 and 28 July, to determine if the raid was legal and whether HMRC staff will be allowed to examine the materials seized in the raid which include business records, computers and mobile phones.
Both St James’ Park and West Ham United’s grounds were raided on April 26 as part of an inquiry into suspected tax fraud in an operation which included 180 officers deployed across the UK and in France.
As part of the operation, Newcastle FC’s managing director Lee Charnley was arrested but later released without charge.
The judge said it was “arguable” on several grounds that the search warrant was obtained unlawfully, with Newcastle United arguing the warrants were excessively wide, there were no grounds to believe the club was engaged in suspected tax fraud and legal procedures were not followed.
Media reports suggest that HMRC were looking for evidence of an alleged income tax and National Insurance fraud amounting to £5 million and involving secret payments to players and agents in connection with transfers between England and France.
Arrests and searches have believed to be linked to the English investigation have also been made in France where the Prosecutor’s office said 10 searches were carried out four people were placed in police custody at the time of the English raids.
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