FORMER Rangers owner Craig Whyte was released on bail yesterday after appearing in court to face fraud charges.
Whyte, 43, appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court in connection with an investigation into the purchase of Rangers Football Club in 2011.
He left the court amid chaotic scenes, facing a gauntlet of photographers and a crowd of people who screamed abuse at him.
Whyte exited the main door accompanied by four police officers, who pushed a way clear for him to reach a saloon car, which took him from the scene.
He appeared in the dock just 24 hours after arriving back in the UK having been detained in Mexico, which he had been trying to enter on a flight from Japan.
He faced a string of allegations during a private hearing in courtroom number three.
These included claims he funded a controlling share in Rangers by selling off season tickets – after pretending to then chairman Sir David Murray he had cash of his own.
It is also alleged a failure to make outstanding VAT and National Insurance payments put Rangers into administration.
Whyte made no plea or declaration to a charge of being involved in a two-year fraudulent scheme and a second allegation under the Companies Act.
His lawyer Paul Kavanagh confirmed Whyte had been bailed by Sheriff Andrew Normand following the 45-minute judicial examination hearing.
No further court date was set.
As a condition of bail, Whyte was ordered to surrender his passport.
The fraud charge spans January 2010 and February 2012. Whyte took control of Rangers in May 2011.
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Legal papers claim Whyte pretended to Sir David Murray and the board of directors he had “sufficient funds to acquire controlling shareholding” in Rangers.
This is said to have “induced” the board to agree to the sale to Whyte. He is then accused of pretending he would provide £5m to buy players, that he would pay out £2.8m for a tax liability and use £1.7m to settle “agreed capital expenditure”.
Other allegations listed include an accusation Whyte was part of a claim to the Ticketus firm that Sir David was aware the purchase was being funded by selling season tickets. Ticketus is said to have then entered into an agreement to acquire three years of season tickets.
It is further alleged Whyte pretended to the Scottish Football Association he had not been disqualified from being a director, leading it to believe he was a “fit and proper person” to take control of a club. The charge concludes that Whyte got the shareholding by fraud and failed to provide contracted funds for the “continued operation” of the club – withholding payments due to HMRC.
It is said this caused the club to enter into administration.
The second charge under the Companies Act is over a number of days in May 2011. It is claimed funds from an agreement with Ticketus were used “to meet obligations as purchaser of the club” – in particular £18.2m was paid to Lloyds Bank.
The charge also states funding of the “acquisition of the controlling shareholding” was made by “selling an asset of the club” – the income from the sale of season tickets.”
Whyte’s was in court after four others appeared in connection with the case. David Whitehouse, 49, Paul Clark, 50, David Grier, 53, and Gary Withey, 50, also faced a charge of being involved in a fraudulent scheme.
The four made no plea and were bailed pending a future court date.
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