“It’s Oh, So, Quiet”
As well all know, the recent First Tier Tax Tribunal (FTT(T)) appeal found in favour of Murray International Holdings (MIH) and Rangers Football Club* (RFC, * = in liquidation), through a majority verdict of two to one. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have until Christmas to decide whether or not they will appeal this decision, or leave it be. I have already written about the evidence presented to the tribunal, and will, in all likelihood, continue to do so whilst there is sufficient interest in it. However, this article, once again, concerns sections of the Scottish media and their “bizarre” handling of the story itself.
Those of you who read our previous article regarding the tribunal (“Tax Doesn’t Have To Be Taxing…Until You Die?”) may well remember that it finished with the discussion of a quote from Mssrs Muir and Rae (the gentlemen who voted for MIH and RFC*), cited in paragraph 85 (page 20) of their writings, which stated:
“85. Certainly, we considered that Mr Red was defensive in his evidence to us. He accepted that there had been delays in his providing certain information to HMRC. His position, perhaps, was somewhat invidious inasmuch as he was charged with the day-to-day management of a scheme devised and directed by another party, Messrs Baxendale Walker (none of whose representatives gave evidence.) One aspect of his evidence which disturbed us was his meeting with Mrs Crimson on the eve of her giving evidence. Having collected her at Edinburgh Airport it seems that there was some discussion about Trust matters and he passed to her for her consideration that evening certain extra documents including company minutes. (These were produced as late extra documents by the Taxpayers’ Counsel and Advisors for scrutiny by the Tribunal.)”
Dr Heidi Poon, the chartered accountant and judge who made up the “one” in the two to one verdict, authored the appendix attached to the tribunal papers, entitled “The Dissenting Opinion” (an article concerning this evidence as a whole will be released at some point in the next twenty four hours).
Rather than publishing one enormous blog regarding Dr Poon’s thoughts, I have chosen to split it up into smaller, more manageable pieces which, critically, are not so long that you need an hour of your time to read them. For this reason, this article only concerns the meeting between Mr Red and Mrs Crimson, cited above by Mssrs Muir and Rae, and below, by Dr Poon.
The vast majority of that written below is directly quoted from the relevant appendix. As ever, I will allow you to draw your own conclusions, before discussing my thoughts on a few matters.
Dr Poon discusses the evidence given by Mrs Crimson, a director from Trident, the current managers of the Remunerations Trust (with direct regards to the aforementioned meeting for the sake of this article), stating:
“48. In cross-examination, it became clear that Mrs Crimson was very uncomfortable with her position. She spoke with hesitation, prevarication, and gave conflicting details…”
Dr Poon then refers to one of the most intriguing snippets of information which has become public through the release of the tribunal’s findings; one which has been roundly ignored in the mainstream media – the meeting between Mr Red and Mrs Crimson at the airport, and the transfer of an envelope containing documents between the pair. She says:
“We heard evidence on how Mr Red had a conversation with Mrs Crimson on the eve of Mrs Crimson’s giving of evidence, and passed her a brown envelope containing copies of Murray Group company minutes of meetings deciding on the contributions to the trust. The Respondents submit that this was an attempt in conniving evidence, since Mr Red had asserted in his oral evidence, given the day before Mrs Crimson was due to give evidence, that the Trustees had been sent such minutes as part of the procedure. In reality these minutes were never sent to the Trustees, and to cover up the fact that the Trustees had never had sight of these minutes, Mr Red passed her the brown envelope on the eve of Mrs Crimson’s testimony so that she could claim that Trident had been sent these minutes as a matter of course.”
She continues on a scathing attack, which some would feel brings into question the entire legitimacy of the tribunal’s findings:
“All these factors suggest that Trident’s real independence from the Appellants was highly compromised, and there is no evidence to contravene this inference. On the contrary, the ‘brown envelope’ episode stands as a proof of the Appellants’ control over the trustees, and the trustees’ readiness to comply with the direction. As the Respondents submit, the conduct of the trustees was characterised by being compliant and complicit: (1) Trident as trustees were willing to act in breach of trust to achieve the aims of the Appellant companies in using the sub-trusts to grant loans to the protector/employees; (2) Mrs Crimson as a director of the trustee company was willing to connive in giving false evidence to help create a false impression of procedural practice that would suggest Trustees’ independence.”
And now, having seen Dr Poon, an experienced individual with regards to FTT(T) hearings, describe Mrs Crimson as “willing to connive in giving false evidence” and that the Respondents “submit that this was an attempt in conniving evidence, since Mr Red had asserted in his oral evidence, given the day before Mrs Crimson was due to give evidence, that the Trustees had been sent such minutes as part of the procedure.”
This alludes to the fact that these minutes had never been sent out, and this was all a rouse in an attempt to “cover up” the passing of documents from one witness to another. Whilst there is nothing criminal about this, it was clearly frowned upon by those present. There is also speculation found at other points throughout the document which indicates some witnesses were asked about possible collusion between themselves and others, regarding their evidence (namely Mr Scarlet and Mr Magenta, and the bonuses relating to potential qualification for the UEFA Champions League group stages in 2005/2006).
These concerns have rarely been highlighted in the mainstream media in Scotland, whilst being ignored altogether by several outlets. Considering the veracity of these claims by a judge and experienced chartered accountant, this is, at best, a little bit bizarre. Therefore, I will ask you “do you think these would have been discussed and highlighted more had they concerned the actions of another Football Club, or any other business for that matter?”
Before answering, let me stimulate your imagination for a moment, with a fully fictional, and somewhat satirical example of what I feel we would have seen in certain Scottish newspapers had it been, for example, Celtic, caught up in this mess.
“MBSport can exclusively reveal that one of the three judges who sat on the recent First Tier Tax Tribunal appeals panel believes witnesses for Celtic Football Club COLLUDED to provide FALSE evidence to the Tribunal. Papers released by the Tribunal describe how Dr Nick Riviera (“Hi everybody!”) had serious concerns regarding Mr Whyte picking Mr Green (yes, pun intended) up from the airport AFTER Mr Whyte had given his evidence but BEFORE Mr Green had given his. Incredibly, Dr Riviera, and his colleagues who voted for the Parkhead Club, all acknowledge that a “brown envelope containing documents” was also passed between the pair. These revelations have left the Scottish taxpayer, whom the Parkhead Club were alleged to have cheated out of almost £40 million, STUNNED. ”
Now, of course, that is entirely fictitious as I have previously stated. However, I believe that many of you reading this could easily imagine seeing that on the front of a tabloid newspaper in this country (had things been different) with a ridiculous headline such as “CONNIVING CELTS ACCUSED OF CHEATING TRIBUNAL”. And yet, have you seen a similar headline leaping out from the shelves in your local newsagents or supermarket regarding the concerns of Dr Poon and RFC*? I thought not, because these concerns have been all but ignored in large sections of the Scottish mainstream media.
“But why?” I hear some of you ask. Well, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you to ponder that one for yourselves.
I will say this though. There is a part of me which is becoming somewhat bored of writing about this saga. I, predominantly, enjoy writing historical articles about Celtic Football Club and Scottish Football, as well as current opinion pieces regarding the usual topics of debate (tactics, players, potential signings etc). That is why I started, and that is why I run, this website.
However, as has been the case for sometime now, I feel that I am bound to write articles regarding the demise of RFC* and the accompanying saga of tax tribunals etc, to help put a side of the story, which is being ignored by many, across for people to consider. It is entirely up to you what you take from this side of the story (if anything at all), but what I feel is important is that these stories must be told.
Loans which are described as “non-repayable”? Payment structures where more money goes (untaxed) into an employee’s Trust than into their declared salary? And side letters being “actively concealed” for years prior their eventual publication?
Make of it that what you will. I know what I smell.
Jake La Motta scores another knock out blow.