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Ex-Rangers owner Craig Whyte denies fraudulent club takeover

By Paul Ward

Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte has gone on trial in Glasgow accused of a fraudulent acquisition of the club.

The 46-year-old faces two charges relating to the 2011 purchase, one of fraud and another under the Companies Act.

It has been alleged that Mr Whyte pretended to then-Rangers owner Sir David Murray, and others, that funds were available to make all required payments to acquire a "controlling and majority stake" in the club.

This included clearing an £18m bank debt, £2.8m for the "small tax case" liability, a £1.7m health-and-safety liability and £5m for the playing squad.

The Crown alleges that Mr Whyte, who bought the club for just £1, had only £4m available from two sources at the time, but took out a £24m loan from Ticketus against three years of future season ticket sales "which was held subject to an agreement or agreements being entered into between the club and Ticketus after said acquisition".

The second charge under the Companies Act centres on the £18m payment between Mr Whyte's Wavetower company and Rangers to clear a Bank of Scotland debt.

Mr Whyte has pleaded not guilty to both allegations.

The 46-year-old went on trial at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday after a jury of eight men and seven women was selected.

Judge Lady Stacey asked the jury to consider if they knew anyone involved in the case or if they had been a Rangers season ticket holder, shareholder or bondholder at the time in question. After a short adjournment to consider the point, no jurors had to be replaced.

The judge said it was expected to be a long trial and that "it is important to keep an open mind until you have heard all the evidence".

She also told the hearing: "I know there has been Press interest in Rangers Football Club and Mr Whyte.

"You are here to hear the evidence and decide the case in that evidence."

The first witness is due to give evidence in the case today.

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