THE ACQUITAL of Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric marks an ignominious end to a five-year £8m police and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation into alleged football corruption that secured not a single conviction.
Both the police and the tax authorities defended the investigation on Wednesday night, with HMRC saying it had “no regrets” in pursuing former Portsmouth manager Redknapp and club owner Mandaric. But the failure to secure a single result despite two trials – Mandaric and former Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie were acquitted in a separate tax evasion trial last year – raises serious questions, the Telegraph reported.
The acquittals also mark the last twitch of the Quest inquiry, a civil investigation commissioned by the Premier League into the transfer market that ran in parallel to the police inquiries, and in one crucial aspect of the Redknapp case, informed them.
For City of London Police, which masterminded Operation Apprentice, the outcome at Southwark Crown Court marks a serious embarrassment, the Telegraph added.
It is the second major sporting corruption inquiry overseen by the force to end without a conviction, following the collapse of Kieren Fallon’s prosecution for alleged race-fixing in 2007.
By the time the judge had thrown out that case, Operation Apprentice was under way.
It was a sweeping investigation into suspected money laundering and fraud that eventually led to nine players and executives, including Pascal Chimbonda and West Ham deputy chairman Karren Brady, being arrested.
Just three were charged, Redknapp, Storrie and Mandaric, and all were acquitted.
Chris Martin, assistant director of criminal investigations at HMRC, said he had no regrets, and warned others using offshore tax havens: “We have no regrets about pursuing this case because it was vitally important that the facts were put before a jury for their consideration.
“We accept the verdict of the jury but I would like to remind those who are evading tax by using offshore tax havens that it always makes sense to come forward and talk to us before we come to talk to you.”