Criminal inquiry launched into Craig Whyte’s Rangers takeover

RANGERS faces a criminal inquiry after prosecutors ordered police to investigate Craig Whyte’s takeover, which has seen the club condemned to liquidation.

RANGERS faces a criminal inquiry after prosecutors ordered police to investigate Craig Whyte’s takeover, which has seen the club condemned to liquidation.

• Prosecutors order police to investigate Craig Whyte’s takeover in May 2011

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• Sir David Murray sold an 85% shareholding for £1 to Mr Whyte

• Mr Whyte has repeatedly denied any criminality in his takeover

The Crown Office has instructed Strathclyde Police to investigate the May 2011 deal, which saw an 85 per cent shareholding bought for £1 from Sir David Murray.

Meanwhile, “newco” Rangers was facing the prospect of life outside the Scottish Premier League, with at least six clubs opposed to its entry.

Fans have welcomed the Crown Office move, saying the police is the only body capable of getting to the truth of the club’s fall from grace.

Rangers entered administration on 14 February, because of the alleged non-payment of £9 million taxes to HMRC. Administrator Duff & Phelps later estimated the club could owe a total of £134m.

It also emerged that Mr Whyte used a £26.7m deal with investment firm Ticketus – in which it paid for the rights to sell Rangers season tickets – to help seal his takeover.

Mr Whyte has since been handed a lifetime ban from football by the Scottish Football Association.

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Police involvement began with documents handed to Strathclyde officers by Duff & Phelps in February.

The force has now shared its preliminary findings with the Crown Office, which has ordered a full criminal investigation, effectively widening the scope of the inquiry.

“The procurator fiscal for the west of Scotland will now work with Strathclyde Police to fully investigate the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of alleged criminality during that process,” the Crown Office said in a statement yesterday.

Mr Whyte has repeatedly denied any criminality in his takeover. Speaking in February, he said: “I have absolutely nothing to fear because any fair investigation will prove that I have always acted in the best interests of Rangers and been involved in no criminal wrongdoing whatsoever.”

Police may also investigate claims against the administrator.

Last month, Duff & Phelps threatened legal action after the BBC alleged that the firm’s senior partner, David Grier, was aware of Mr Whyte’s scheme to buy Rangers using Ticketus cash.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Friday, Lord Hodge called for a full report into the BBC’s claims, adding: “There is considerable public interest in this jurisdiction in relation to the administration.”

Both Duff & Phelps and the club have welcomed the Crown Office statement, with the administrator pledging to work with police.

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Malcolm Murray, new chairman of Rangers Football Club, said: “The board’s priority is to rebuild the club for the future and we are 100 per cent focused on that task. We welcome any investigation that examines events at the club and will offer every assistance if required.

“Rank-and-file Rangers fans are blameless. They want answers and for those responsible for the club’s fate in recent times to be held to account. Hopefully, this investigation will assist.”

Rangers fans have endured a turbulent few months, which has seen their team go from title challengers to facing an SPL exit.

Mark Dingwall, board member of the Rangers Supporters Trust, said: “We are delighted the Crown has announced this because, frankly, only the police have the necessary powers and investigative tools to get to the bottom of what’s been happening.”

But Derek McCallum, 26, from Dunoon, said: “Every new piece of bad news tarnishes the club’s image even more. That’s just bad for Scottish football as a whole.”

This month, Duff & Phelps negotiated the sale of the club’s assets to a consortium led by Charles Green for £5.5m, after the Yorkshire businessman had a company voluntary agreement rejected by creditor HMRC. Rangers now face liquidation.