HMRC raid on Newcastle United 'may have been unlawful'

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St James' ParkImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Newcastle United's ground was raided by HMRC officers in April

The seizure of documents from Newcastle United by tax officials may have been unlawful, a judge has said.

St James' Park and West Ham United's ground were raided in April by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as part of an inquiry into suspected tax fraud.

The club applied for permission to seek a judicial review of the search-and-seize order HMRC had obtained.

A judge said it was "arguable" on several grounds the search warrant was obtained unlawfully.

Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting in London, said there must be a full High Court hearing of the issues.

Newcastle FC's managing director Lee Charnley was among a number of senior European football officials arrested in connection with the matter and later released without charge.

During the raids, business records and financial records were seized as well as computers and mobile phones belonging to the club, which recently secured promotion to the Premier League.

The HMRC investigation into suspected income tax and national insurance fraud centres on football agents and payments made in transfer dealings between English and French clubs.

It has confirmed the French authorities are assisting the UK investigation.

'Flawed warrants'

The judge ordered that a full hearing of the case should take place next month, probably over 27 and 28 July.

Newcastle United argued the warrants were excessively wide and there were no grounds to believe the club was engaged in suspected tax fraud.

Club lawyers also argued the legal procedures followed when the warrants were obtained at Leeds Crown Court were flawed, and no proper reasons were given.

The judge said the absence of reasons made it harder for him to be satisfied the warrants were lawfully issued.

He continued orders preventing HMRC officers from examining the seized material pending the full hearing.

The HMRC said it would be "inappropriate" to comment at this point.

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