Tonight, as we’re being told that another “battle for control at Ibrox” is heating up, I find myself forced to return to a familiar theme for this site, and it’s not the backgrounds of Ashley or King or Easdale or any of the other assorted spivs.
Ignore, for the moment, the battle lines that, according to some, are being drawn.
Focus on what we know for sure, what we can demonstrate as fact.
At the moment, the club is in the hands of an unscrupulous cabal. This has been a fairly constant state of affairs at Ibrox since David Murray took a Motherwell born billionaire’s shiny pound coin and sauntered into the sunset with it.
Craig Whyte, Charles Green, Brian Stockbridge, Imran Ahmad and a host of other chancers have gone in, and come out, of the Ibrox revolving door since then, and they’ve taken their share of the family silver with them.
The current state of the club can be described as “precarious” at best. They speed towards administration like a Mack Semi with the brakes cut.
Only an influx of money – big money, serious money, as opposed to the chump change they were able to raise by squeezing Ally and other “investors” until the pips squeaked – will stave off total disaster, and with what we know about this club and how it does its business I would not count on that being more than a very temporary state of affairs.
All of this could have been avoided, of course. Absolutely none of it need have happened at all. It was not simply a matter of forcing Sevco Rangers to live within its means – although that would have been a big help.
No, the more one looks at it, the more you have to conclude that none of the people who’ve played fast and loose with the clubs playing out of Ibrox should have been able to assume their positions in the first place. Not one of them should have qualified as “fit and proper persons.”
A lot of folk have been instrumental in bleeding first Rangers and now Sevco of everything they could. Those people are simply acting true to type. They’ve broken no laws. Indeed, this is their job. This is what they do for a living. Green, Whyte and others are sharks. They swim the seas looking for signs of wreckage, and then they feed.
No, as you cannot blame a buzzard for feeding on dead flesh – that’s what it’s in their nature to do, after all – you cannot blame a spiv for spotting an opportunity and ruthlessly taking it.
You want to blame someone; make sure you direct it where it belongs. The blame for all this lies in one place. It lies at Hampden. It lies with one group of people. It lies with those who run the Scottish Football Association.
Back when David Murray was looking for someone to sell Rangers to, amongst the names floated by the media included a Russian mafia boss, a “criminal” lawyer and a politician with links to the Loyalist paramilitaries.
I read those stories in incredulity, especially the media’s contention that the club’s supporters didn’t care who the money came from, as long as it allowed them to continue signing players and living beyond their means.
This might make you laugh – it certainly makes me laugh – but looking back, I remember thinking these stories were fanciful rubbish, but that even if they weren’t, there were safeguards in place which would not allow such disreputable characters to get their hands on a Scottish football club. In other words, I had faith in the governing bodies.
Yes, for someone so cynical my naivety has known no bounds at times.
The SFA has to be one of the most amateurish organisations on the planet at times. It’s fit and proper person criteria should be rock solid and written in stone, but it’s a bad joke which has allowed three years of chaos at a club they’ve gone out of their way to tell us the game cannot do without. If that’s true, then surely it is incumbent on them to make sure that the people in charge of it are the right sort. They’ve failed lamentably in that task.
Let’s start with Craig Whyte.
I was sitting in a pub having dinner when I heard he’d bought Rangers for £1. By the time they made the announcement myself and most of the guys on TSFM, CQN and elsewhere were already well in front of the media in our research on him, and we were far out in front of the SFA.
The news reports on Whyte’s earlier court cases, brought by former company employees, were available online for people who wanted to look. The trail of companies he’d been involved with, and liquidated, was available to anyone with an internet connection who wanted to find out.
There were few secrets.
The media talked about his wealth, and transfer war-chests, but I, myself, did a little bit of digging into his alleged fortune and found it was non-existent.
I didn’t go probing financial records or anything. I didn’t need to. The Sunday Times does all that, and every year they put together their Rich List from tax returns and other publicly available info.
The Rich List ranges from those at the top – with fortunes in the tens of billions – to those who’s wealth is in the tens of millions. It is extensive, and exhaustive, charting everyone from captains of industry to sports stars and minor celebrities.
On the year Whyte took over the club there were less than 100 billionaires in the UK and his name was not amongst them. From there, it went down to people with wealth below £20 million. Craig Whyte was not on the list. Anywhere.
All this, I’d already blogged on and published in various places, and I wasn’t alone. A lot of other folk were doing research of their own.
Some, like the TSFM boys, were developing information so mind-blowing that it amazes me even now, when the public image of this guy is in the toilet. Some of that stuff has only ever been published on that site – a site everyone should be reading, every day – and has never been viewed by a wider audience.
(The story about Whyte’s time as a gold trader is especially wonderful, and I am staggered that it’s not been publicised fully. He is some character. His story would make one Hell of a movie.)
The SFA fit and proper person rules do not involve the Association itself looking for facts. As incredible as it sounds, they call for something called “self-regulation.” They rely on the clubs, and those running them, to declare themselves fit and proper.
The only sanction they can realistically impose is to punish the club itself, which they did with Rangers – Sevco … and with a slap on the wrist that would not have deterred anyone.
Self-regulation is a joke. It’s an embarrassment that they allow it. It relies on the honesty of the people involved in running clubs, but if those people are dishonest in the first place they’re hardly going to declare that on the official return, are they?
Not all of the blame for Whyte’s disgraceful reign can be laid at the doors of Hampden, of course. Rangers’ own board of directors had formed an Independent Board Committee , comprised of Alastair Johnston, John Greig, Donald McIntyre and John McClelland, with the explicit purpose of scrutinising potential buyers.
By the time Whyte took over they already had, in their hands, a report by a private investigator they’d hired to check him out, and what was in it scared them half to death.
They didn’t disclose it to the SFA. (Or to the fans, either, it has to be said.) They kept it hidden, and in terms of what it detailed it still is. We only know of its existence because Johnston told the press about it in October 2011.
When the SFA commissioned a report into the Whyte era, in May 2012, they were highly critical of this decision and those who had taken it.
They were right to be. Under their rules, Rangers had a duty to report this … but reading back, it still reeks of the governing body passing the buck.
From Whyte, the club was passed on to Charles Green, and once again the Internet Bampots were all over the matter. They linked Whyte and Green right from the start, connecting the two regimes in a dozen places, through a dozen companies, and individuals who’s names popped up over and over again. Everyone now accepts that the two men formed part of the same circle, and that both were actively involved in the setting up of the NewCo.
The Internet Bampots knew it at the time. All the facts were published online. The SFA, again, washed its hands of responsibility and cobbled together the secretive and corrupt Five Way Agreement, based entirely on the First Lie, that Sevco Rangers is a direct continuation of Rangers Football Club, the one Whyte rode into the ground.
The Five Way Agreement set out a number of “conditions” regarding fit and proper persons. We still don’t know everything they tried to tweezer out of Green and his associates, but two of the key provisos we do know of – that Whyte have no involvement in Sevco at all, and that another individual, who we’ll discuss later, was not to have an interest in the club – were certainly completely ignored. Once again, the facts are freely available.
Yet when the Whyte story exploded into the press again last season, with the stunning news that he’d tape-recorded meetings with Green, the SFA abrogated their duty to get to the bottom of the shambles – a shambles they were largely responsible for – by allowing the club to do an “internal investigation”, which, shock horror, cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Shame on our association for taking such a blasé attitude towards this basket case organisation, and the people who were running it.
I said at the time that the SFA wanted nothing to do with investigating this because they were hip deep in it, and I say that again. If they followed every thread, all of them would have led straight back to the Five Way Agreement and their abject failure to put Green, his associates and their promises under the microscope as they should have done.
One of our biggest football clubs had just been liquidated at the whim of a transparent charlatan. He chose his own administrator, who handed the club over to Green and his cohorts very specifically. The SFA should have been wary of that, and accorded it the proper scrutiny.
When Green mounted his defence for involving Whyte – that, in fact, he was conning him out of something he owned – that, in itself, should have sparked a full SFA inquiry into just what the Hell was going on inside the walls of Ibrox Stadium.
This was an admission that a Scottish football club had been set up as a result of a fraud. That’s it pure and simple and without adornments. It should have been the moment the clock was stopped and this whole situation investigated, in full, with no stone unturned and consequences be damned.
The integrity of our sport had been corrupted.
SFA membership had been handed over to an organisation that hadn’t a legal foundation on which to exist
What happened instead? Well, we got the internal inquiry at Sevco, and the Pinset Mason report, which the SFA never even bothered to query.
Which brings us to the Easdale brothers, who Charles Green brought on board before he departed, with his pockets bulging.
I don’t think there is any person in the whole country who’s unaware that Sandy Easdale was imprisoned for VAT fraud. I keep reading the word “jailed” but somehow that doesn’t do this justice. Let’s skip all the niceties shall we, and use that larger word instead.
He was convicted of a serious, financially motivated crime against the exchequer, the very people who had liquidated the OldCo in the first place. He spent more than a year in the clink.
When asked about it at the time, Sevco Rangers issued a statement that said; “We are fully aware of Mr Easdale’s past and take the view that this was a long time ago.”
There was no attempt to hide the fact that a NewCo born of dodging tax liabilities was about to admit, to its board of directors, someone convicted of tax fraud. This was not hidden from a soul, far less from the SFA licensing board. They didn’t have to dig deep to find out who Sandy Easdale was. They only had to pick up a newspaper or call Sevco Rangers press office. No investigative muscle needed to be stretched.
SFA regulations specifically set down a timeframe of “the last 10 years” when deciding whether a person is fit and proper, and as Easdale’s conviction happened in 1997 he escapes that by several years.
You could, if you were being charitable, give them that one … although a bigger question is why a criminal fraud conviction for which you went to prison isn’t an automatic bar, regardless of how long ago it was.
I understand paying your debt to society … but I ask you, how many other such people, since the rule was written, have gone on to serve as directors of Scottish clubs? This isn’t a regulation that would disenfranchise whole swathes of the population here. What it would do is keep unprincipled fraudsters from using our football clubs for God knows what.
The same applies to the current touted Hero of Ibrox, about whom I’ve written a ton already and could write (and probably will write) a ton more.
The SFA has made no definitive statement on Dave King, himself convicted of hundreds of tax offences in South Africa. Again, this is not hidden information. There is not a soul in Scotland who does not know who King is and what happened with the tax authorities in the country where he now resides. If any are in doubt, the entire court judgement is available online for free, for all who might want to look at it.
King’s alleged consortium includes Paul Murray, a former Rangers director, who, therefore, according to SFA regulations, is ineligible to serve on the board of a football club in this country until 2017.
Which, in point of fact, also applies to King, a fact our media doesn’t like to discuss and which the SFA would rather we forgot.
King shouldn’t come close to qualifying as a fit and proper person. He fails on not one count but two under the SFA’s guidelines, and in the event the moon really is made of cheese and King has a serious plan for the club this time, and the SFA is willing to overlook his two violations in order to accept him on the board anyway, it would make them the first club in Britain to have not one, but two convicted fraudsters (and I say this again; tax fraudsters) on the same board of directors. That, in itself, would be inexcusable.
We shouldn’t count on those rules barring the way for King or anyone else going into Sevco though. The SFA’s propensity for ignoring regulations when it comes to them goes back a long time. It manifests itself in everything from the corruption that was the LNS verdict to match postponement criteria, and, of course includes twisting the regulations on dual ownership of clubs.
Sevco is in one Hell of a mess right now, and a political typhoon is brewing with Mike Ashley ready to stop a new share issue in its tracks, knowing that if he does he’ll be the last man who can keep the club alive, and will charge heavily for doing so.
Yet, once again, he should never have been near the building had the SFA followed its own rules and regulations. He should have been sent packing when he first expressed an interest in buying shares. The rules were waived, and a 10% ceiling was placed on him instead. Now, even that is up for debate and on this one the Sevco fans themselves are furiously demanding that the rules be followed.
This isn’t the first time the SFA has ignored that rule, of course, nor even the first time they’ve ignored it when it comes to Rangers.
Mr Conflicted himself, the SFA’s President, was in breach of those rules when he was on the board of Hearts whilst holding shares in their then SPL rival. That he later claimed he passed them on to his wife is no defence, as I’m sure he knows, as the regulations explicitly forbid that too.
His own list of offences, including signing off on the Discounted Options Scheme – a tax scam – whilst at Ibrox, is long and detailed and doesn’t need further examination.
None of these people should have been allowed, or should be allowed, near a Scottish football club, and so you cannot but look in awed disgust at the SFA bosses who have, for two years, been deaf, dumb and blind when it’s come to the evolution of the biggest scandal in the history of our national game, and one of the greatest in the annals of sport itself.
Yet, all of it pales into insignificance when we consider that in a week where the silence out of the SFA on Ashley and King has been deafening that there’s an even bigger story out there, and wrapped around all of this, and one only the bloggers seem keen to fully tackle.
Congratulations to The Rangers Standard for a stunning article yesterday on the links between the Green consortium and the international wanted man Rafat Rizvi. It really was, and is, a sensational scoop.
On 22 September, whilst most of Scotland was still licking its wounds from the independence referendum, the Indonesian government admitted that it had written to Sevco Rangers calling on them to end their business relationship with the man who Interpol wants to arrest because he has criminal convictions in that country – and a 15 year sentence waiting for him there – for corruption, money laundering and banking crimes.
Their attorney general stated that “We have filed a new request to Interpol to hunt down the fugitive Rafat Rizvi after reports he was involved in buying a Scottish football club, Rangers FC. We beg Interpol to look for him and bring him back to our homeland in order to accept his sentence.”
This “fugitive”, who remains in Britain because it has no extradition treaty with Indonesia, was, of course, spotted having a nice lunch with fellow fraudster Sandy Easdale earlier that month. The subject? Allegedly a potential “investment” in Sevco Rangers.
Yet, as The Rangers Standard has shown, his contacts with the club go back much, much further than that, and are much more detailed.
Their insistence that they have “smoking gun” emails are devastating, especially as they allege that his activities at Ibrox were drawing interest from the Scottish Organised Crime Agency … a quite staggering claim, and one that if true blows the lid of a real can of worms.
Because, of course, apart from the questions as to what SOCA were looking at, Rizvi is alleged to be the other name listed in the Five Way Agreement as someone who was to have no connection to Sevco Rangers at all.
It’s not only The Rangers Standard’s excellent scoop which reveals that, in fact, those connections were already there. The Scottish Football Monitor boys were, as usual, way ahead here. They might not have had the emails, but they had already successfully joined the dots, and given a very clear picture of what those links were.
I want to pay tribute to Barcabhoy here, who published what has rightly been called a “tour de force” piece on TSFM covering this very subject. I also want to give an honourable mention to Ecobhoy, who expanded on some of this, and has been digging into these links for a while.
He starts with a man called Chan Fook Meng and a company called Orlit. Most of us will know them as the one which issued a winding up order to Sevco, which was settled before it went that far. Chan Fook Meng is connected to Green, as he was said to have owned a company called Nova Enterprises, of which Mr Charles Green was chairman.
Green later brought Brian Stockbridge to Sevco, and it just so happens that he was on the board of another Chan Fook Meng company, called Tembusu Investments.
One of his fellow board members at Tembusu was the Interpol fugitive, Rafat Rizvi. He, in fact, was the chairman of the board.
Tembusu’s NOMAD (their nominated advisor – bear in mind Sevco’s NOMAD has just had its shares suspended) resigned when Rizvi was found guilty by an Indonesian court and was thereby banned from running a company. The reason they resigned is that he’d transferred control to his wife, and was still, thereby, effectively running things behind the scenes.
The company they appointed as their new NOMAD was Allenby Capital, founded by a guy called Imran Ahmad, Charles Green’s “little paki friend.” On the board of Allenby with Ahmad was Tembusu’s boy wonder Brian Stockbridge.
Barcabhoy then goes on to show how Charlotte Fakeovers had produced emails confirming money traveling between Rizvi and Green, for the initial purchase of Sevco.
The piece then mentions a company called The Bunny Trust, set up by Rizvi’s family and administrated by Chan Fook Meng, which establishes a literal connection between those two and now completely links Green to the convicted fraudster.
The piece goes on to discuss the possible links between Rizvi and Blue Pitch Holdings, and from there joins the dots to the Easdale brothers, and all of this paints a ghastly enough picture without a grim addition which should make everyone who’s not read it yet go over and check it out; the links between these grim men and the crisis that almost resulted in Wallace Mercer closing down Hibs.
That story is like icing on the whole rotting cake, and the most incredible thing of it is that when Barcabhoy is making connections without full possession of facts, and thereby only speculating, as he does over the Rizvi – Blue Pitch section he says so clearly.
The rest is referenced and linked, and all 100% truth.
The picture it paints is one of an unfolding disaster, one that hasn’t come close to being explored in full. All the work done by the guys on TSFM could have been done by an investigative department inside the SFA, if they had a mind to put one in place.
It need not be an expensive undertaking either, and the SFA’s excuse that they don’t have the resources and time to investigate every club doesn’t stand up because no-one’s asking them to.
It’s the same argument that is used against introducing TV evidence, “Oh but we can’t afford to do that in every single game …” But not every game is potentially worth millions of pounds, or titles and cups.
Likewise, no-one is talking about imposing this scrutiny on every club. But there is demonstrable doubt surrounding not one person at Sevco Rangers but a whole host of them, going back three years now. If there was ever a need for the SFA to tighten its guidelines, enforce its rules with rigor and actually do real fit and proper person investigations instead of leaving it to the clubs this is surely it.
You know, I never accepted their view that Scottish football needs Rangers. But they made it with such conviction and force that you would swear they actually believed it.
What they have allowed to go on over there is unconscionable when viewed through that lens.
They have failed every single one of us.
They are the most unfit and improper of them all.
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