Harry Redknapp cleared of tax evasion

Harry Redknapp: "This was a case that should never have come to court"

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Harry Redknapp said his "nightmare" was over after being cleared of tax evasion.

The Tottenham boss had denied accepting secret untaxed bonus payments from former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric, while he was club manager.

Mr Mandaric was also cleared of two charges of cheating the public revenue over the £189,000 payments.

Mr Redknapp, who was close to tears, said the case "should never have come to court".

Speaking on the steps of Southwark Crown Court, he thanked his family, the fans at Tottenham and his legal team after coming through the five-year investigation, which is believed to have cost about £8m.

He said: "The Wigan game [on 31 January] was the most moving I've ever felt, for me personally to have them singing my name throughout the game while all this was going on, that will always be special to me.

Harry Redknapp with Peter Crouch Peter Crouch was sold by Portsmouth to Aston Villa in 2002

"It's been a nightmare, it's been five years, it's a case that should never have come to court.

"I'm looking forward to going home and getting on with my life."

Former England boss Graham Taylor said the verdict now opens the way for Redknapp to take charge of the national team in the future.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, another former England manager, said he thought Mr Redknapp would be a "very, very good choice" as Fabio Capello's successor.

Bookmakers have now stopped taking bets on Mr Redknapp becoming the next England boss.

Mr Redknapp and Mr Mandaric embraced in the dock as the verdicts were read after five hours of deliberations.

Mr Mandaric, who is currently chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, walked up to Det Insp Dave Manley to shake his hand and said: "Thank you".

'Egg on face'

Afterwards, Mr Mandaric said: "I have to try and pinch myself and wake up from the horrible dream.

"I always believed in the truth and also believed in the British justice system."

Following the verdicts, former Spurs chairman Lord Sugar told BBC Radio 5 Live: "If this was Harry Smith or Harry Brown, it would never have gone to court. This is an attempt by the authorities to make an example of a high profile personality which has backfired.

"It dates back a long time to when pressure was put on the authorities to do something about alleged, so-called wrongdoing in football.

"They were hoping to prove something and now they have egg on their face."

Storrie cleared

TV presenter Fred Dinenage, who was on the board at Portsmouth during Mr Mandaric's ownership of the club from 1998 to 2006, branded the trial "a waste of time and money".

Milan Mandaric says he never doubted British justice would prevail

It can also now be reported that Mr Mandaric and Peter Storrie, Portsmouth's former chief executive, were cleared of tax evasion charges at a separate trial last October.

They were both accused of evading tax over player Eyal Berkovics's termination fee.

Mr Storrie was also accused of dodging tax on a signing-on fee to midfielder Amdy Faye when he moved from Auxerre to Portsmouth.

Mr Storrie, who is now allowed to speak about his trial, told BBC News: "We said from day one that it [the case] was farcical.

"I am delighted we've been proved completely innocent and I can get my reputation back."

'Something special'

During Mr Redknapp's and Mr Mandaric's trial, jurors heard the Spurs boss received two payments totalling £189,000, into his "Rosie 47" account in Monaco - named after his pet dog.

The defence said the money was an investment made by Mr Mandaric while Mr Redknapp said he forgot about the account and had very little to do with it.

The prosecution claimed the first payment of £93,100 was a bonus for selling striker Crouch for £3.25m profit in 2002.

The court heard Mr Redknapp's cut of transfer profits was reduced from 10% to 5% when he moved from being Portsmouth's director of football to manager in March 2002 but Mr Redknapp told jurors he felt he was was "morally" due the full 10%.

Mr Mandaric said he "wanted to do something special for Harry" but he denied it was compensation for his Crouch bonus and said it was an investment for a "friend".

During the trial, Mr Redknapp admitted lying to News of the World reporter Rob Beasley about the alleged Crouch payment because he did not want negative stories ahead of a cup final.

'Nothing sinister'

Mr Redknapp said: "I have to tell police the truth, not Mr Beasley - he's a News of the World reporter."

It was claimed the second payment of £96,300 was a bonus for Portsmouth beating Manchester United.

But Mr Mandaric's barrister, Lord MacDonald, described the accusation as "really desperate stuff".

He said there was "nothing even slightly sinister" about the actions.

Chris Martin, from HM Revenue and Customs, said outside court: "Tax evasion is not a victim-less crime.

"We have no regrets about pursuing this case, it was vitally important the facts were put in front of a jury. We accept the verdicts."

A statement from Tottenham Hotspur said: "Everyone at the club is delighted for Harry and his family."

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