Rangers’ Negotiations With HMRC: The Truth Is In There
21/12/2011 1,592 Comments
For several months, it must have been difficult for Craig Whyte’s spin doctor to catch his breath. It seemed as if Whyte, through Rangers or one of his other highly profitable businesses, was in court daily for failing to pay debts to some supplier or an ex-employee, and was having large sums of cash arrested. The hits kept coming: the BBC broadcast a documentary alleging that Craig Whyte acted as a director while disqualified. The BBC show also made claims that Mr. Whyte was involved in lots of financial fast foot-work. One scheme seemed to involve pocketing cash that was supposed to be destined for the tax man. Such were the frequency and magnitude of the accusations against Mr. Whyte that a strange thing happened- it got boring! “Craig Whyte in court over debt” had, by last week, become the least interesting headline you could imagine. Even the most upstanding Rangers fan developed a tolerance for news that would have shocked had Sir David Murray been in the same position.
When bad news is coming thick and fast, the best PR men would advise to just take cover until the shelling stops. This week has seen Whyte’s men emerge from their bunker to start the counter-offensive. A rumour of a negotiated solution to the Big Tax Case emerged on the Follow Follow fanzine website (from a low post count little-known participant). Darrell King then “confirmed” the story on Radio Clyde last night. Rangers messageboards have since gone into a frenzy of exaltation. Salvation is at hand!
As this blog has said a few times, to a drowning man even the smallest straw is worth grasping. It is with this understanding of the need to have hope that the mendacious arts of the PR firm have been deployed in Rangers’ support once again. Journalists of low IQ and/or a willingness to prostrate themselves for the cause are very helpful in these exercises.
The basic subtext being spread is that Mr. Whyte has grown weary of trying to negotiate with the sectarian pygmies in the Scottish offices of HMRC and he is heading to face the main men in London. A deal that would solve Rangers’ massive tax problems for the paltry sum of £5 million (or some other manageable amount) is on the cards. “Ha! That will silence that Rangerstaxcase nutter!”
One problem: Mr. Whyte is expressly prohibited from negotiating the Big Tax Case directly with HMRC. This privilege is reserved for Rangers’ former owner, Murray Holdings Limited- who have their own less serious problems with EBTs and who presumably see a tactical benefit for themselves in keeping the cases together.
Who says Whyte cannot negotiate with HMRC? Well, Craig Whyte and Michael Scott McGill (representing Murray Holdings Limited) agreed this when they signed the Share Purchase Agreement that delivered Rangers into the hands of Whyte. Don’t believe me? Look at this extract from the document below:
Maybe Mr. Whyte arranged for Sir David Murray to join him in London to participate in discussions? Maybe Mike McGill has some helpful advice that could help include Rangers’ mounting unpaid PAYE, NIC, and VAT remittances in the settlement? Or maybe Mr. Whyte does not mind having relative strangers sit in on some rather personal discussions?
The big men in London were none too receptive when they were approached by Rangers’ representative in January of this year with an offer to settle for £11 million. We are supposed to believe that they will now settle for £5 million once Whyte subjects them to the negotiating prowess that saw Rangers land David Goodwillie over the summer for a pittance?
In a week where the head of HMRC has been excoriated by the parliamentary public accounts committee for doing sweetheart deals with tax delinquents, what seems more likely: that a deal is at hand or that a PR charm offensive with the goal of raising the flagging morale of Rangers fans is underway?