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Rangers face criminal probe over Craig Whyte £1 takeover


Craig Whyte's takeover of Rangers is to be investigated by  Strathclyde Police

Craig Whyte's takeover of Rangers is to be investigated by Strathclyde Police

Lynne Cameron

Craig Whyte's takeover of Rangers is to be investigated by Strathclyde Police

Craig Whyte's ownership of Rangers and his financial management of the club has become subjet to a criminal investigation by Strathclyde Police.

The Crown Office said prosecutors have instructed the force to investigate alleged criminality, following a preliminary police examination of information passed to it in February this year by the club's administrators.

Mr Whyte bought an 85% shareholding in Rangers for £1 from the Murray Group last May and made several pledges of investment and paying off the club's bank debt.

Rangers went into administration on February 14 and were consigned to liquidation earlier this month.

The Crown Office said: "The Crown Office has today instructed Strathclyde Police to conduct a criminal investigation into the acquisition of Rangers Football Club in May 2011 and the subsequent financial management of the club.

"The investigation into alleged criminality follows a preliminary police examination of information passed to them in February this year by the club administrators.

"The procurator fiscal for the west of Scotland will now work with Strathclyde Police to fully investigate the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of alleged criminality during that process."

Rangers FC was forced into administration through court action from HM Revenue and Customs.

Immediately after being appointed, administrators Duff and Phelps announced that the club failed to pay about £9 million in PAYE and VAT since Mr Whyte took over.

They also revealed that Rangers paid off Lloyds Banking Group using £24.4 million from investment firm Ticketus, on the back of future season ticket sales.

The debt to HMRC was recently listed at around £21 million in the failed company voluntary arrangement proposal to creditors.

Businessman Charles Green's consortium bought the club's assets for £5.5 million earlier this month.

Duff and Phelps, who launched civil action relating to the takeover against Mr Whyte's former lawyers, Collyer Bristow, welcomed the development.

David Whitehouse, joint administrator, said: "We provided initial documentation to Strathclyde Police very shortly after our appointment as administrators on February 14 and have had a number of conversations with the police since then.

"Both in our role as administrators, and previously in our role as advisers, we have fulfilled all our obligations in keeping relevant authorities informed of any developments pertinent to their jurisdictions.

"As court-appointed administrators, we will continue to provide our full assistance in the investigation process, and welcome this development."

Last week Duff and Phelps were asked by a judge to answer allegations that they were in conflict of interest by accepting the role as administrators, given that a senior partner, David Grier, advised Mr Whyte during the takeover of Rangers.

Malcolm Murray, the chairman Mr Green appointed to head the board of his new company, said: "The board's priority is to rebuild the club for the future and we are 100% focused on that task. We welcome any investigation that examines events at the club and will offer every assistance if required.

"The rank-and-file Rangers fans are blameless. Rightly, they want answers and for those responsible for the club's fate in recent times to be held to account. Hopefully this investigation will assist in this regard."

Mr Whyte has denied any criminality over his takeover.

Speaking in February, he said: "I have absolutely nothing to fear because any fair investigation will prove that I have always acted in the best interests of Rangers and been involved in no criminal wrongdoing whatsoever."

Belfast Telegraph