Crimes, Capers & Panama Papers

dermot-desmond-moriarty-tribunals-752x501I get a lot of stuff in my inbox, as you can well imagine.

Some of it is ridiculous. Some of it is so bad it’s almost sublime.

One such email came through just yesterday and in it the writer regaled me with his warped view that I am a hypocrite for “ignoring the biggest story in Scottish football today”. He even shared with me some details, in case it had passed me by.

This was, of course, a reference to The Panama Papers, one of the biggest data leaks in history, revealing the details of the super-wealthy and their offshore tax avoidance schemes. This scandal has already brought down the governments of Brazil and Iceland. This time last week it had David Cameron teetering on the brink.

Amidst those papers was a certain name.

It was Dermot Desmond, of course, and my correspondent thought that this was somehow a stain on the image of Celtic and Scottish football, not to mention a heinous crime against society for which restitution had to be made.

These people are barmy. We all know that. Moments like this help to remind us that they’re also stupid, and it’s important that we remember that going forward. These goofy fools have spent years looking for the “smoking gun” that will prove to the world that Celtic is as corrupt as their club used to be and which their NewCo still is.

They’ve looked into land deals which go nowhere and bank loans which show nothing and relationships which don’t prove anything other than that Celtic has enormous clout and the respect of many people in many different fields, including politics, big business, banking and other areas where Sevco’s gore flaked fingers can’t reach.

I try to imagine the joy some of them must have felt on hearing the news that our majority shareholder was “caught up” in this. This would, if proved, be the catalyst for our total disaster. It was all too easy, in their fevered, febrile, minds to imagine Desmond being hounded by the tax authorities until his business empire collapsed, and the crippling debts drowned Celtic in a sea of red ink.

Everything would follow on from there; a global call-out for buyers to save us. None would come. A hastily put together attempt at a “pennies in the pound” CVA. Which would be refused. The SFA being faced with a world without Celtic. They would want to find us a safe berth. (Why do I doubt that?) But Sevco, newly powerful, would use every bit of its influence to relegate us to the bottom division. Our club would be judged dead until someone bought the bits. Somehow those bits wouldn’t include the history. (Yes, it would be interesting to watch them have to try and square that circle). We would end up scrambling our way up from the dust, weak, humiliated, to know how they felt.

You can see how this would unfold in their heads, and we know it would go just so because they’ve spent so long during the pursuit of the “state aid” case sharing their fantasies with those of us who needed a good laugh. Always it went something like that, the uncovering of some fact, some evidence, some shattering secret and then the domino effect that brought it all down.

Amazing, isn’t it?

The people who couldn’t find out Craig Whyte was a dodgy geezer, even after we’d shown them the paper trail and it had been on the BBC … suddenly they are super-sleuths, digging into public records and finding out secrets.

Except, as with the state aid “investigation” and the one involving the Co-Operative Bank, there really isn’t a hell of a lot to see here.

For one thing, there’s no suggestion – none whatsoever – that Dermot Desmond has violated any laws. It’s not even clear that what he did involved money. Oh I have no doubt whatsoever that Dermot Desmond is fully acquainted with tax avoidance mechanisms galore, but this particularly case doesn’t seem to involve cash, which one wouldn’t expect from a scandal with a guy who’s wealth is in the actual (as opposed to imaginary) billions.

In fact, all the Papers seem to “accuse” him of is being represented by a law firm, and having his name in some of their leaked documents. Not exactly the crime of the century, or indeed a crime at all if we’re being straight to the point.

Desmond and his business history has long been the focus of the Peepul and their Goon Squad.

They reference many issues in his past, appearances in front of tribunals and Law Lords almost beyond count. But every businessman of his means has those trials to endure. Not once have they demonstrated any skulduggery, although they allege plenty of it. They are lucky he doesn’t bother with internet tittle-tattle, or one suspects they’d be on the fat end of a very big libel lawsuit.

But still, these off-base nutjobs continue to look for some evidence that will cast doubt on him, and therefore cast some sort of cloud over Celtic. They never stop looking but never seem to find anything, and I know it frustrates them immensely.

Their latest accusation is that our club’s good work in Haiti is somehow linked to the Clinton Foundation … that’s right, to the charitable organisation run by the ex-President of the United States and his wife, the former US Senator and current Secretary of State and the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party in November.

And what’s wrong with that?

Well, according to these geniuses that Foundation is mired in scandal.

What kind of scandal?

Who the Hell knows what goes on in their tiny minds, but it’s apparently not a big enough scandal for the US press and the Republican Party, who, you’d think, have got to be looking for this kind of stuff. Maybe the Sevco Brains Trust really has gone where they won’t, but knowing a little about this subject it’s hard for me to believe. The Clinton’s have only been at the sharp end of US politics for thirty years, and in that time people have been looking. Some of them haven’t stopped. If Karl Rove didn’t find the killer fact, Chris Graham ain’t gonna.

Not that any of it matters, because it’s all smoke to distract from the real crooks and we didn’t need a leak like The Panama Papers to know who they are.

There’s David Murray for one, a peer of the realm, whose companies were wound up earlier this month owing £200 million and upwards. The glib press release that went out in accordance with this said the bank was the “sole creditor” which is all nice and neat except the bank was, until recently, owned by the tax payer.

And this is why none of my correspondent’s ridiculous email stands up even to the most minor scrutiny and why it doesn’t amount to a scandal no matter how much he wishes it did.

For starters, Dermot Desmond is domiciled in Ireland.

His tax affairs are a matter between him and the Irish government, as Dave King’s were between him and the government of South Africa, and whilst Desmond might make the most of the legal framework which exists to stop any rich individual paying their share there’s nothing to suggest he’s considered a crook by the tax authorities at home.

The same cannot be said for the current Sevco chairman.

So there is no criminality involved in what Desmond has done, and where the tax payer gets a raw deal is something for the Irish government to sort out. It doesn’t make him an improper person to sit on the board of Celtic, and it doesn’t cost UK taxpayers a dime.

King has criminal convictions.

Murray quite literally built his club with money that belonged in your pockets and mine.

Even a complete fool sees the differences between these people.

And in case it needs further spelling out, here’s where the argument really falls on its fat, lazy arse.

Celtic was neither built with, nor depends on, the largesse of Desmond or anyone else. So even if there was a smoking gun out there … it wouldn’t impact on our club one bit.

Desmond is our majority shareholder. That’s all. He’s not a sugar daddy. We are a self-sufficient club. We don’t need him to pay our bills as they come due. Not a penny of the cash Desmond makes from his other businesses flows into Celtic Park.

Our club’s money is clean. Our foundations are not built on debt dumping or screwing over the taxman and, by default, the taxpayer.

I don’t like Dermot Desmond. I don’t like his attitude, the way he influences policy at Celtic Park and I don’t particularly like the people he’s helped pick to run the club. I think he, and some of them, are a stain on our reputation. I wish he’d pack his pencils and beat it, selling his shares to someone who gives a damn and doesn’t see them as a vanity purchase.

I don’t want his money and I never have.

What’s more, I don’t like any of these rich, greedy bastards who don’t want to pay their share when all around us cuts are being made to important public services both here and abroad. The Daily Record published an article today on how the taxman is chasing former players at Celtic and Rangers, as well as at least one who’s odds-on to play in Sunday’s game with Sevco.

What does Jackson expect us to say about that? If these people tried to dodge tax then they deserve everything they get regardless of the shirt they wear or wore. All these people ought to be brought to book, no matter who, no matter where.

But that wasn’t my correspondents point.

His point was that Desmond’s name was in those papers and that was as good as Celtic’s name being in there.

He wasn’t interested in taxpayers in Ireland or here.

He wasn’t concerned with debtors or creditors or the little guy being stiffed by the one who could afford the high priced lawyers.

What individuals do is up to them, and Hell mend them when Hector comes calling.

But Celtic has nothing whatsoever to do with any of it.

This was about one-upsmanship and our football club, and HMRC can chase whomever they want but the football club itself has kept clean, and it’s played by the rules, and it has met its responsibilities both to the football governing bodies and to wider society. It has accepted lean years and bad results because the alternative was to in some way cheat, whether that was financial doping or the bending of rules.

Our club wasn’t built on credit, or defrauding the taxman, it wasn’t sunk by debts. Nor was it like their NewCo, born in disgrace, from the shattered remains of a fraud, founded by men of highly questionable character, and which is now run by a crook.

I told my correspondent all of this, of course.

You know what he said?

He said tax fraud wasn’t a real scandal and then went on to reference … Hell, you all know what he went on to reference.

There’s something wrong with these people, don’t you think?

(This site couldn’t run without the support of its readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. If every reader was able to give just a small sum the running costs would be met far into the future.)


James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

15 thoughts on “Crimes, Capers & Panama Papers

  • 15 April, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Murray’s companies may have left debt of £200 million, but that was after that had been offset and written down by the bank from just short of the £1 billion!!

  • 15 April, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Good read but have to say the Clinton Foundation are being looked at over some very dodgy deals and Hilary herself has several FBI charges laid against her

  • 15 April, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    I’m not a fan of the Clinton’s, but I’d stake a pretty good bet on there being nothing in the latest “allegations.” These two have been facing allegations for 30 years now and no-one’s found the smoking gun yet.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    “majority shareholder”??

    I’ve seen that quoted elsewhere, but isn’t he simply the largest shareholder?

  • 15 April, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    On the one hand you rightly describe a fate that might befall us, should ever our club be diverted onto a path followed by the Ibrox dwellers – and yet on your next breath,you traduce the reputations of the very people who have insured that we will never go down that route.

    Where is the sense?

    You hate DD and unnamed board members, no doubt because you would deny the latter to hold a certain political view and be on the Celtic board – what kind of hypocrisy is that?

    We lay great store by the fact that we don’t discriminate and cheat, and yet the very people, in positions of power at Celtic, who ensure that we hold to this , have their characters assasinated by you, because you “don’t like them”, or their political affiliations.

    I read your blog from time to time and have always found common ground with you, however certain parts of this article are abhorrent to me.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Pedantic I know but David Murray is a knight of the realm not a peer.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    John Kerry is the current Secretary of State, Hillary
    resigned her position in 2013.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    I lived in the States during the White Water investigations into the Clintons’ alledgedly diodgy land/property deals. Kenneth Starr investigated them so hard and so long and so widely and found nothing worth finding. Ironically, he virtually a proved that they were whiter than white – well at least to any reasonably fair minded obsever.

    Your corespondent seems to be heading f9or the same ironic result.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Unable to read your post as two ‘Pizza’ banners on each side of screen with left side obscuring part of text. I gleaned something which appears to be Der Hun looking for anti-Celtic news. Well, firstly that shower should stay a lot closer to home, as we all know. Dermot Desmond’s tax position is neither here nor there to me as he is not a UK citizen or UK tax-payer. Other than that DD’s position in general is neither here nor there to me except his betrayal of Celtic fans when going with the ‘same club’ shit south of the river. Judas. But at least, (in what I regard as mythology), Judas finally had the decency to hang himself.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    The appearance of impropriety is just as bad.
    Bill or Hillary speak at a Saudi gathering.
    Cue large donation to Clinton Foundation.
    Followed by State Department clearing arms deal.
    Repeat and rinse multiple times including the grant of the Haiti cellphone contract to O’Leary followed by Bill speaking in Dublin for a large fee and a sizable donation to the Clinton Foundation.
    There was I think a 60 minute program on it, but I add that DD was not mentioned.

  • 15 April, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Dermot Desmond does NOT pay tax in Ireland.
    He is one of a number of entrepreneurs including JP McManus and Celtic shareholder Denis O’Brien who opt t spend less than 183 days per year in Ireland and pay tax elsewhere. For you to say Dermot Desmond is domicile d n Ireland is erroneous.

  • 16 April, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Good article, the Clintons are as far as I am concerned two of the biggest war criminals around, along with Bush and Blair, personally I would want nothing to do with them, I was having a discussion with a bitter sevco fan, aren’t they all, he accused me of having a holier than thou attitude, seeing how our club has behaved throughout its history, I think he has a point, we are, we have never cheated, never defrauded the taxman, never illegally registered players and we don’t indulge in racist sectarian singing, I think we can claim to be hoiplier than thou, which in a way I find hard to say as an atheist but never mind. HAIL HAIL.

  • 16 April, 2016 at 9:26 pm


    You should have offered to send him some tea/coffee and a packet of Rich Tea to while away the hours. After all it’s bound to be cold going around in circles.

  • 18 April, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    How long before you come out of hiding I wonder???

    You can sit and write your wee “Ranjurs are pyre Sevco so they ure” blogs all you want to next season cause that’s the only crumb of crumb of comfort you will have.

    Warburton will have Rangers playing a brand of Football that your old hammer throwers like Brown etc can’t handle.

    Yesterday was only the start.

  • 24 April, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Ask him how the EBTs and 67 side letters for players not paying tax is going to be fixed? By the club who they same is the same ? Or the rangers fc a newco ? Which they deny

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