The Tribunal: Is it actually finished?
11/05/2011 214 Comments
I have been operating under the assumption that the First Tier Tribunal dealing with determining the illegality of Rangers’ tax strategy for the last decade had finished on schedule on Friday the 6th of May. However, I have yet to actually find any confirmation of this.
My sources of information for this issue and I had previously agreed, and are maintaining, a ‘zero contact’ policy until the tribunal returns a result. So my access to the case will be limited until then. However, other lines of enquiry have also drawn a blank. Rangers FC will not be interested in keeping their supporters informed on an issue of such negligible risk. Additionally, I doubt that they will want to put this subject back on the radar for a news cycle by commenting. Some journalists I am talking with have also been unable to confirm that the First Tier Tribunal finished on schedule.
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. So it might be complete, but I just wanted to correct any impression I had given that it was.
In the event that it is not complete, the inquest will doubtless begin in the vacuum with all of us who follow this subject reading the entrails of the beast to divine meaning where none may exist. If you want to believe that Rangers will not face an unpayable bill, this would be a sign that HMRC’s case cannot be that good. If you want this to be the execution order for the club that started in Flesher’s Haugh in 1872, you would see further delay as an indicator of the vast mountains of evidence against Rangers. In truth a further delay would probably signal neither.
In a case involving £48m of transactions from Rangers FC (and a further £2m from MIH) and an average “loan” transaction of £50,000, there would be at least 1,000 transactions that would have to be dissected in detail for the judges. This would involve tracking the disbursement of funds to an employee from the EBT. Each payment must have a corresponding loan request (with multiple extension documents). HMRC will be trying to match loan requests to player contracts: either on a one-to-one correspondence or where aggregate amounts due to players match aggregate amounts paid through the EBT + legally paid emoluments (salary and contractual bonus). Any other documents relating to these payments that may exist would also be presented. In summary, it is quite an onerous task given the amount of money and the number of transactions involved.
If Andrew Thornton QC is under instruction to slow things down, it would be a trivial task to do so. Questioning the admissibility of each piece of paper or verification of the authenticity and data integrity of the information on each sheet of paper could really slow progress down. Even if not deliberately trying to slow the process, but just doing his job to try to limit the damage by getting anything he can excluded would also have a retarding effect on progress.
If the submission of evidence and cross-examination was not completed last Friday, it could mean a further six months until the tribunal can reconvene. At this stage, no one wants an answer to this saga one way or the other more than I do. I sincerely hope that the tribunal is moving towards a finding right now. However, it suddenly struck me that I have no independent basis for believing that it is. I just wanted to keep you all up to date and as well informed as I can.