Harry Redknapp: I can barely write . . . I couldn't have fiddled my tax
The Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp, admitted that he had such a "problem" with handwriting that he could not even "fill in a team sheet" and required an accountant to "run his life", a court heard yesterday in a dramatic fourth day of his trial for tax evasion.
In an interview with City of London police in June 2009, which was played to Southwark Crown Court, Redknapp said that he had never written a letter in his life and that even his wage slips were sent direct to his accountants. The court heard the Tottenham manager admit that he could not spell and that, in his own words, he "wrote like a two-year-old".
Redknapp said: "I have a big problem, I can't write, so I don't keep anything. I'm the most disorganised person, I am ashamed to say, in the world, I can't work a computer, I don't know what an email is, I have never sent a fax and I've never sent a text message."
It was under questioning about a bank account in Monaco that is central to the two charges of tax evasion against Redknapp while he was manager of Portsmouth that the 64-year-old admitted he had left his financial affairs in the hands of his accountant, Malcolm Webber. "My accountant runs my life," Redknapp said. "I don't have wage slips, I have not seen a wage slip in 10 years. I don't even have my wage slips. I don't see bank statements."
Later he said: "I am ashamed to say it. You can talk to anybody at [Portsmouth] football club about it. I couldn't fill a team sheet in. I have never written a letter in my life. He [Webber] is the straightest accountant in the world."
Earlier in the day, the defence counsel, John Kelsey-Fry QC, had attacked the prosecution's previous assertion that Redknapp was a "hard-headed businessman". Instead, Kelsey-Fry had described some of his client's investments as "disastrous". "By way of example, Mr Redknapp got himself into a position where he would end up signing something which meant, in effect, he could face 100 per cent of the losses and only 50 per cent of the gains."
On another occasion, Kelsey-Fry said that Redknapp had loaned £250,000 to an unnamed former chairman of Oxford United and the money had "disappeared into the mist". The defence counsel said: "I don't want to be rude unnecessarily, but to describe Mr Redknapp as a hard-headed businessman with considerable financial acumen is probably putting it rather high."
Tonight, Redknapp will leave court at around 4pm and travel straight to Vicarage Road to join up with his Tottenham team for their fourth-round FA Cup tie against Watford, having spent the whole week away from his squad in court. He and Milan Mandaric, the former chairman of Portsmouth, who have sat alongside each other in the dock this week, face two charges of cheating the public purse.
The case centres on two payments from Mandaric of £93,000 and £96,000 made between 2002 and 2004 into a Monaco account opened by Redknapp, then Portsmouth manager, which the prosecution alleges were made in order to evade British taxes.
In his interview with police in 2009, Redknapp portrayed himself as a man with a chaotic grasp of his own finances who left all tax issues in the hands of his accountant. Redknapp told Detective Sergeant Robert Sterling that he had repeatedly sought assurances from Mandaric that the £189,000 in the dollar account in Monaco had been taxed.
In his interview with City of London police, Redknapp also detailed the terms of his departure from Portsmouth after his first spell at the club in 2004, in which he said he walked away from a pay-off that could have been worth as much as £200,000. He said he had got "the hump" with Mandaric after the then chairman had brought in a director of football, Velimir Zajec, above his head.
"Milan got the needle, I became bigger than him at the club and he didn't like that. We came to a settlement. I did an agreement with Peter Storrie [then Portsmouth chief executive] and Mick McGuire of the PFA negotiated. We agreed a pay-off to settle my contract of £180,000 to -£200,000, I'm not 100 per cent sure of the figure.
"Mick rang me the next morning and said: 'OK, we have agreed it. Don't sign the forms until we get the cheque from the football club. You know what they are like.' I said: 'I don't want their money. Tell them to give it to the youth football in Portsmouth.' He said: 'You're mad.' You can ring, Graham Taylor [PFA chief executive], Milan Mandaric and Peter Storrie. They will tell you that story.
"So I'm not going to be involved in a tax fiddle in Monaco, it's impossible. I was guaranteed there was no tax to pay. I never spoke to him [Mandaric] for a year and he did nothing but slag me off in the papers. As far as I was concerned Monaco was completely forgotten about. I never even knew what bank it was I went to and neither did my wife.
"Why was I going to fiddle £20,000 to £30,000 when I walked away from £200,000 of their money? I don't need to fiddle income tax. I'm disorganised, completely and utterly disorganised, but I'm not into fiddling tax. I pay a fortune to my accountant to look after me. He writes the cheques for me and my wife. He pays my bills and that's where I am."
As an example of how little he knew about his own finances, Redknapp told police that he had not even noticed that he had gone unpaid for his ghostwritten column in The Sun newspaper for 18 months until his accountant pointed it out to him.
Both Redknapp and Mandaric deny the charges. The case continues.