Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp was found not guilty of tax evasion yesterday following a three-week trial into allegations he stashed hundred of thousands of dollars in an offshore bank account.
Redknapp’s co-accused, Milan Mandaric, was also unanimously acquitted of all charges in dramatic scenes at a packed Southwark Crown Court.
Redknapp and Mandaric hugged each other in the dock following the conclusion of the trial which had seen both men’s reputations at stake.
The Spurs manager was close to tears while giving evidence last week as prosecutors accused him of telling a pack of lies to the court.
The most successful English manager currently working in soccer, Redknapp is regarded as the favorite to replace England boss Fabio Capello later this year, with his Spurs side currently third in the Premier League table.
Any guilty verdict against Redknapp would have effectively ended his chances of becoming England boss, a job he has previously said he would be unable to turn down if offered to him.
Yesterday’s acquittal leaves Redknapp free to pursue his dream of managing England.
Bookmakers immediately slashed their odds on him taking over from Capello following the verdict.
“These unfounded allegations should never have been brought to court,” Mandaric said in a statement outside court amid a scrum of media. “I need to go and find somewhere to wake up from this bad dream.”
Redknapp, 64, and Mandaric, 73, had denied two counts of cheating the public revenue by failing to declare US$295,000 kept in a Monaco bank account.
Prosecutors alleged the money was paid to Redknapp by Mandaric when the two men were manager and owner of Portsmouth respectively, as part of a bonus arising from the sale of striker Peter Crouch, but Redknapp said the money was paid by Mandaric to help with investments in the US and that he believed any taxes owing on the amount had already been paid by his chairman.
Redknapp’s defense barrister John Kelsey-Fry QC had argued the case against the Spurs boss was “repugnant to all our basic instincts of fairness.”
Addressing jurors in his closing remarks on Monday, Kelsey-Fry said there was an “inherent absurdity” in the prosecution’s reliance on “primarily despicable” evidence gathered by a News of the World reporter.
Lawyers for Mandaric, meanwhile, argued the prosecution’s claim that the money paid into the Monaco account was a bonus “simply doesn’t make sense.”
“We say the evidence against him is hopelessly weak,” Mandaric’s barrister Lord MacDonald told the court.
“In Milan Mandaric’s mind this was not money for Crouch, this was Milan Mandaric coming through on money he had promised months before — for a portfolio,” the barrister said.
After the acquittal, reporting restrictions on an earlier tax evasion case involving Mandaric and former Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie were lifted. Both men were acquitted.