Harry Redknapp tells court: I’m no businessman, just a fantastic manager

Despite swapping the dugout at White Hart Lane for the witness box at Southwark crown court, Harry Redknapp turned in a characteristically plain-spoken performance , entertaining his tax evasion trial with cracks about Peter Crouch’s height, attempting to turn the tables on the prosecutor, and shouting at a policeman to stop eyeballing him in court.

The 64-year-old Tottenham Hotspur manager began his evidence by telling the jury that he has always paid his tax – and would rather pay too much to the Inland Revenue than too little – but proceedings became increasingly heated as he was asked about the offshore bank account at the centre of the case.

The prosecution claims Redknapp opened the account in Monaco in 2002 so he could receive $145,000 (£93,100) from his then boss at Portsmouth, Milan Mandaric, to make up for money he was not paid when the club sold Crouch to Aston Villa.

Although Redknapp felt he was owed 10% of the profits from the sale, the club paid him only 5%, arguing he was not contractually entitled to the larger sum.

The prosecution says Mandaric paid two sums into the account, which was named after Redknapp’s bulldog, Rosie. The first payment of $145,000, it claims, was intended to make up for the £115,473 that Redknapp missed out on from the Crouch sale. The second payment of $150,000 (£96,500), the prosecution says, was a reward for Redknapp’s stewardship of the club and for getting it into the Premier League. As the payments were “undoubtedly referable to Mr Redknapp’s employment”, the prosecution says that tax should have been paid.

Redknapp told the jury it had not been easy to get Mandaric to sign Crouch in the first place, as the Portsmouth boss had dismissed him as “a basketball player”.

He added: “Crouchy at 6ft 7 was not exactly his cup of tea. He said, ‘You’ll owe me 10% instead of me owing you.’”

Redknapp’s observation that Crouch would prove a good buy – “he’s young, he’s developing, he’s getting taller” – also raised a laugh in court.

Earlier, Mandaric had brushed off the prosecution’s suggestions that he had needed to make extra payments to keep Redknapp happy, saying his then manager was well paid with a contract valued at “millions of pounds”. Mandaric said he had paid the “seed” money into his friend’s Monaco account for no other reason than to help him establish a portfolio. “This money had nothing to do with anything else than the friendship that developed beyond football,” he told the court.

John Black QC, prosecuting, disputed Mandaric’s assertion, saying that the payment was in fact made to compensate Redknapp for receiving 5% on the sale of Crouch rather than the 10% he felt he was due. “This money, Mr Mandaric, was money given to your friend Harry Redknapp offshore, particularly as a bonus for the Crouch sale, wasn’t it?” Mandaric denied the money had been intended as a bonus – as did Redknapp when he later stepped into the witness box.

The Spurs manager accused Black of getting tangled up in his repeated references to bonuses. Were the alleged bonuses for the Crouch sale, for doing well, or to keep him at the club, he asked the prosecutor.

(more…)

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