Newcastle United win permission for High Court challenge over tax raids

The St James's Park stadium of Newcastle United.
The St James's Park stadium of Newcastle United.
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Newcastle United have won permission to bring a High Court challenge over the seizure of documents by tax officials investigating the financial affairs of several football clubs.

Their St James's Park stadium and West Ham United's ground were raided in April by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as part of a probe into suspected income tax and national insurance fraud.

Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley was among a number of senior European football officials arrested and later released without charge.

The club applied for permission to seek a judicial review of the search-and-seize order obtained by HMRC against Newcastle United FC.

Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting in London, said on Thursday that it was "arguable" on several grounds that the search warrant was obtained unlawfully and ruled there must be a full court hearing of the issues.

During the raids, business records and financial records were seized, as well as computers and mobile phones belonging to the club, who recently secured promotion to the Premier League.

The HMRC investigation centres on football agents and payments made in transfer dealings between English and French clubs.

It has confirmed that the French authorities are assisting the UK investigation.

The judge ordered that a full hearing of the case should take place next month, probably over July 27-28.

Newcastle United argued the warrants were excessively wide, and there were no grounds to believe the club was engaged in suspected tax fraud.

Club lawyers also argued that the legal procedures followed when the warrants were obtained at Leeds Crown Court were flawed, and no proper reasons were given.

The judge said the absence of reasons made it harder for him to be satisfied the warrants were lawfully issued.

He added: "I am persuaded by Richard Lissack QC, who appears for the (club), that a number of points he takes in relation to other grounds of challenge make it at least arguable that their challenge to the warrants will succeed."

He continued orders preventing HMRC officers from examining the seized material pending the full hearing.