On Wednesday afternoon a jury at Southwark Crown Court returned not guilty verdicts against the Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp and his co-defendant Milan Mandaric, following a three week trial.
Mr Redknapp and Mr Mandaric were jointly charged with two counts of evading tax, both relating to payments made into a Monaco bank account owned by Mr Redknapp. The first charge alleged that between 1st April 2002 and 28th November 2007 Mr Mandaric had paid $145,000 (£93,100) into this account, and the second related to a further payment of $150,000 (£96,300) between the 1st May 2004 and 28th November 2007.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) alleged that these payments were made by Mandaric to Redknapp in order to avoid paying tax and national insurance contributions on the bonus Redknapp was due from the sale of a player. Their case relied on the evidence of a News of the World reporter, who Mr Redknapp had told in 2009 that the first payment was a bonus from the player’s sale.
In evidence both Mr Redknapp and Mr Mandaric denied seeking to evade tax, stating that the money paid into the account was for investment purposes. Both defendants pointed out that they paid large sums of tax, and therefore would have no motive to avoid paying tax on a relatively small amount of money. Mr Redknapp accepted he had misled the reporter under cross examination, but explained he had not wished the paper to publish a story which could distract his team from football matters.
In this instance both defendants did not have the option to choose whether their case was heard in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court, due to the nature of the charge against them. However that they were acquitted by a Jury is no surprise given that the conviction rate in Crown Court is much less than that of Magistrates’ Courts.
All defendants charged with offences for which they have the option to elect for trial by a jury in the Crown Court should bear this point in mind. However they must also be mindful of the risk of receiving a far greater sentence and increased costs should they be found guilty in the Crown Court.