DAVE King has dismissed claims that he is poised for a fresh battle with South African tax authorities, insisting he now has the “time and resources” to fully focus on his bid for control of Rangers.
The former director of the Ibrox club, who has requested a general meeting of shareholders calling for the removal of the board, agreed a settlement of £44 million with South African Revenue Services (SARS) in 2013 after accepting 41 charges of contravening tax laws in his adopted country.
The deal avoided the threat of a custodial sentence for the Glasgow-born millionaire businessman who remains adamant it will present no hurdle to him meeting the SFA’s fit and proper person criteria to become a director of Rangers again.
Reports in the South African media suggested King’s tax case could be re-examined after he was named as one of those illegally monitored by SARS during their investigations, providing those penalised with leave to appeal.
But in a statement released last night, King stressed he considers the matter closed. He now enjoys a profitable working relationship with the South African government, while SARS are understood to have provided documentation confirming they have no objections to him serving as a company director. “There has been media coverage in the UK following a report in the South African Sunday Times that dealt with the suspension of senior managers of the South African Revenue Services for allegedly operating a rogue intelligence unit that spied on senior politicians and businessmen,” said King.
“I am named in the report as one of the business people who was spied on. It was suggested in the Sunday Times report that this unlawful activity by SARS could put many of the recently concluded tax settlements at risk – mine included. This is an obvious conclusion for the journalist to reach. If SARS obtained information unlawfully and such information was used to coerce settlement with me [or any other taxpayer] then I could apply to have my settlement set aside. According to my advice that is the correct legal position.
“For the avoidance of doubt I wish to make my position clear. I will not be making an application to have my settlement reviewed and/or set aside for two reasons: One. My settlement resulted from prolonged and robust litigation that was fully in the public arena. There was no information produced or used by SARS that was unlawfully gained and, in my opinion, the individuals I dealt with at SARS acted in good faith – both during and after my settlement negotiations. I consequently have no legal basis to argue for the review and setting aside of my settlement. Two. Even if my legal team could make out a case for review I would not pursue it.
“I am happy with the settlement and the opportunity this created for me to lead a normal business and personal life. My business interests have performed very strongly post-settlement with the SA government by far my largest customer.
King added: “I am also able to enjoy my role as executive chairman of a public company without the integrity issues that previously dogged me. Importantly, I also now have sufficient time and resources to invest in getting Rangers back on track.”
Meanwhile, The Rangers Fans Fighting Fund (RFFF) will back The Rangers Supporters Trust with hard cash if need be in their bid to keep Ibrox Stadium out of the clutches of Mike Ashley.
The RST welcomed the “substantial legal fund available, should it be required,” to fight any attempt to give the Newcastle owner and Rangers shareholder security over the club’s two biggest assets. Rangers fans protested outside Ibrox before the clash with Hearts on Friday after it emerged Ashley had filed documents notifying land register bosses that he planned to take out security on the stadium and Murray Park training ground, in return for a reported £10m loan offer.
A spokesman for RFFF said: “In recent days it has become crystal clear that the club’s current board is considering the use of Ibrox Stadium and Murray Park in order to secure a further loan from Mike Ashley.
“For that reason, the RFFF confirms it is willing to provide support and assistance to any fan group determined to protect the club’s assets.”
A statement on the RST website expressed its delight and gratitude to the RFFF’s backing and vowed “to fight any attempt by this board to pass security over Ibrox to Mike Ashley”.
“We will work closely with the RFFF going forward to ensure every avenue is explored,” read the statement.
In another development, the Easdale brothers have hit back at Paul Murray after he gave an interview to a newspaper comparing the Ibrox board to Gerald Ratner, the infamous jewellery boss who sank his own company when he admitted his products were “total crap”.
Jack Irvine – spokesman for Sandy and James Easdale – responded by claiming Murray was on the Ibrox board which sold the club to Craig Whyte for £1 in May 2011.
Irvine said: “One begins to wonder if we are not dealing with Paul McKenna as opposed to Paul Murray, who appears to have hypnotised himself and his cohorts into obliterating the memory fact that they sold their beloved club for one pound. Rangers men? You decide.”
In fact, former Deutsche Bank executive Murray launched an 11th hour bid to persuade former owner Sir David Murray against the Whyte deal. Forecasting the liquidation crisis which just over a year later brought the Glasgow giants to their knees, he said at the time: “In my opinion, Craig Whyte has not adequately demonstrated what his strategy is for managing and funding a negative outcome on this matter.”