Rangers say they are “completely unaware” of any investigation by the Serious Fraud Office after it was claimed that a former employee had made allegations regarding payments made to shareholders.
The issue emerged amid the ongoing power struggle between the Rangers board and a dissenting group of shareholders known as “requisitioners”, including former chairman Malcolm Murray and former oldco Rangers director Paul Murray.
The group, which is trying to secure representation on the board at the club’s annual general meeting on 19 December, said in a statement: “We have been provided with a statement from an ex-employee of the club questioning various payments made to certain shareholders around the time of the IPO [initial public offering]. The ex-employee has reported the matter to the Serious Fraud Office.”
A response from the Ibrox board said: “Rangers have not been contacted by the SFO and are completely unaware of any investigation. We can only assume that confidential information that an ex-employee leaked to the requisitioners was in relation to the payments to certain shareholders that was looked at by two sets of lawyers and the nomad [nominated advisor] at the time and then subject to an additional specific review.”
The SFO declined to comment when contacted yesterday.
The statement from the group led by the Murrays and Clyde Blowers chairman Jim McColl, who are set to meet fans at a Glasgow meeting tonight, came after Rangers chairman David Somers wrote to shareholders urging them to dismiss their bid for a place on the board. The two Murrays are seeking election along with Scott Murdoch and Alex Wilson.
Somers is one of three men appointed to the board since the Murray group secured a court order that forced Rangers to reschedule the AGM and include a resolution for a vote. Norman Crighton and newly-appointed chief executive Graham Wallace also joined James Easdale and Brian Stockbridge, who was among the Charles Green-led consortium which took control in June 2012 and has been criticised for claiming a £200,000 bonus for the team’s Third Division title win. All five are subject to re-election at the agm.
The statement pointed out that the requisitioners had already “achieved a lot”. They have highlighted concerns over corporate governance of the club, which posted operating losses of £14.4million in the first 13 months of business.
The statement added: “In the past three weeks there have been three new appointments to the board. On paper these look like credible individuals who appear to be independent of the Green or [Craig] Whyte regimes. They will have the opportunity over the coming weeks to prove this and to gain the trust of the fans which they will have to earn.
“We believe that the position of Brian Stockbridge is completely untenable and he should resign or be voted off the board at the AGM. He has presided over significant outflows of cash from the club since the IPO (initial public offering). In addition his personal conduct has fallen a long way short of the standards expected at Rangers Football Club.”