UNDER-fire Rangers chief Craig Whyte has launched a defamation case against the BBC.
The broadcaster is one of two defendants named in a writ served by solicitors acting for the businessman. Robert Burns, head of investigations at the Insolvency Service, is the other named party in the defamation case over allegations of criminality against Mr Whyte.
A BBC Panorama programme last October claimed Mr Whyte controlled a company despite being banned as a director – an offence that could incur a two-year jail term.
The firm, Re-tex, was wound up in 2003 after it offered to sell shares to the public using company statements which were said to contain false and misleading information.
At the time, Mr Whyte, 41, denied all the claims “in the strongest possible terms”. He subsequently imposed a BBC TV and radio blackout, effectively banning the broadcaster from Ibrox and Murray Park.
A spokesman for Mr Whyte confirmed a writ had been served. He said: “Mr Whyte made it clear when the BBC first aired the documentary that he would take robust action.”
The programme, Rangers: The Inside Story, claimed evidence of alleged criminality in the past business dealings of the club’s new owner had been uncovered by BBC Scotland.
Mr Burns told a reporter Re-tex had been investigated by his agency. He said: “We took the view that the company was being controlled, or certainly had the involvement of, an individual who was disqualified. That raised concerns.”
When asked who that person was, he said: “I’m talking about Craig Whyte, who had been disqualified as a director in June 2000, for seven years. We found a number of suggestions, and indeed evidence, that he was in some way, shape or form, behind the company.”
Mr Whyte’s lawyers said he had had a small investment in Re-tex but was never a director or a “de facto director”.
The insolvency chief also told the BBC his team had uncovered evidence Mr Whyte had taken two sums of £100,000 from the company, apparently to pay a tax bill. “There’s no trace of the money being received by the Inland Revenue,” Mr Burns said.
A spokesman for BBC Scotland confirmed it had received a writ from Mr Whyte. He added: “We stand by our journalism, all the allegations made, and we will defend our action vigorously.”