Mandaric ‘insulted’ by tax dodging charge

TAX CHARGE Milan Mandaric
TAX CHARGE Milan Mandaric

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The wealthy football chairman accused of sending bungs to Harry Redknapp told a court today he is insulted by the allegations.

Milan Mandaric said he was worth more than £100 million at the time and paid £55 million in taxes over six years.

He said accusations of tax dodging are ‘sad, unfair and an insult’ to his family, his associates and ‘even some of those supporters’.

Mandaric told Southwark Crown Court in London: ‘It is a very sad situation that I have to answer that because in business, running public companies with thousands of shareholders, being a major investor in US banks where you have to go through rigorous, fit-and-proper person test, being part of investment fund over there, I started in a hard way and made enough money to support my love of football.

‘Never, ever in my mind was coming the idea that I could get rich evading money. I did not even know what the word meant. I did not cheat anyone.’

He said ‘not in a million years’ would he have paid £189,000 into the account to avoid taxes.

‘I paid £55 million income taxes for six years,’ he added.

Mandaric said he and Redknapp were now friends again after their ‘divorce’ when Redknapp joined Pompey’s rivals Southampton.

He claimed the payments at the centre of tax-dodging allegations were previously ‘not a major factor in my life’.

Mandaric said ‘I was a busy man, I was travelling’ when letters were sent between lawyers about the money in Redknapp’s Monaco account.

‘I didn’t put it as my number one priority, basically,’ he added.

He also said Rob Beasley, a News of the World sports reporter, had tried to ‘debalance me’ in asking him questions about the account.

Mandaric told jurors he under-estimated the abilities of Peter Crouch when Redknapp signed the striker at Portsmouth.

‘So the big, tall guy didn’t look like a footballer,’ Mandaric said.

Mandaric said he told Redknapp: ‘If this is the best you can do, you will end up paying me money.’

England striker Crouch was eventually sold to Aston Villa for a £3 million profit, triggering a bonus for Redknapp in his contract.

As an inquiry was launched into the Monaco account, Mandaric’s lawyer sent a letter to Redknapp’s solicitor asking for the money to be returned, the court heard.

The former Portsmouth chairman said: ‘It was not that I needed this to come back immediately. Eventually I would get the money back.’

He added that ‘it was more important that we were going in the right direction’ at Portsmouth and as friends.

‘I really was not in favour of this letter, it was between Harry and me,’ Mandaric said.

‘I didn’t press with him. To me it was most important that we get back on the track ... this was not a major factor in my life.’

Mandaric added: ‘As of today, we are the same friends as we were before 2004.’

Lord Macdonald QC questioned Mandaric about reports that Redknapp was earning £4.2 million a year.

Mandaric said the reports were incorrect, adding: ‘That would be the full value of his contract over three years.’

Both Redknapp, 64, of Poole, Dorset, and Mandaric, 73, from Oadby, Leicestershire, deny two counts of cheating the public revenue when Redknapp was manager of Portsmouth Football Club.

The first charge of cheating the public revenue alleges that between April 1 2002 and November 28 2007 Mandaric paid 145,000 US dollars (£93,100) into the account.

The second charge for the same offence relates to a sum of 150,000 US dollars (£96,300) allegedly paid between May 1 2004 and November 28 2007.

Redknapp ‘has a tendency to moan”, Mandaric said.

The chairman described how the pair quibbled over whether the manager was owed a 5% or 10% bonus on the Crouch sale.

‘He has a tendency to moan, to be unhappy, to find something,’ Mandaric said.

Mandaric repeatedly denied that the Monaco account was anything to do with Portsmouth.

‘The club had the money,” he said. “The club could have paid him.’

When asked if he thought it ‘unusual’ that Redknapp had named the account after his dog, Rosie, Mandaric said he had met the pet several times.

‘I do not see anything unusual,’ he added.

Mandaric later told the court that he was ‘embarrassed’ by the fate of investments on Redknapp’s behalf.

‘I felt bad about the investment. I was always bragging about what a good businessman I am and I am not able to come through for him.’

He added: ‘It was important to me to show of course, one of my dearest friend for some time, that I was not going to lose his money.’

In 2004 ‘our relationship got a little bit tougher’ when Redknapp joined Southampton, Mandaric said.