Dave King 'can't get at his cash to buy Rangers'

THE South African Revenue Service (SARS) has poured scorn on the suggestion that Dave King, the exiled Glaswegian millionaire, is behind a move to buy Rangers. It was reported last week that King, a lifelong fan of the Ibrox club, was part of a four-man consortium who had an £18 million bid turned down by the Lloyds Banking Group, but SARS dismisses King's involvement as a rumour that has no substance.

"If he was to make that investment in Rangers he would need access to his assets and those are all under preservation order, and for him to unlock them he has to go to court," said Adrian Lackay, a spokesman for the revenue authorities. "The situation has not changed. There has been no settlement and there are court cases pending against him."

In the most drawn out and bitter tax saga in the history of South Africa, King is facing 322 criminal charges including tax evasion, money laundering and racketeering. SARS claims King owes more 100m in tax due from him personally, from his associated business entities and from family trusts. King has denied this. He accuses SARS of a witch-hunt and of incompetence and states that his debt is more in the region of 3m. Until this dispute is resolved, one way or another, SARS has effectively frozen his assets, allowing him a sum of money with which to run his life and his businesses. It's believed to be a generous sum, but nowhere near enough to allow for large investment in a football club.

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"This is a worldwide preservation order, obtained through the Serious Fraud Office in the UK. If, at any stage, the individual (King] draws from any other monies that we don't currently know about then we will become aware of it, either through the authorities in South Africa or in the UK," added Lackay. "Now, we believe he is going to try to go to court in the UK around the end of February in an attempt to get the preservation order lifted, but nothing like that has happened yet."

Without that court verdict going his way, SARS cannot see how King can hope to get involve in the ownership of Rangers in the short-term. It is also convinced that King would not be able to create a loophole by transferring some of his private wealth – estimated at 300m – into somebody else's name for the purpose of backing a bid for Rangers. These monies would be investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and would also come under the preservation order if it was shown that they originated from King's accounts.

This is a bitter and epic battle between King, who lives in a 7m mansion in Johannesburg, and the tax authorities of a country he emigrated to more than 30 years ago. Neither party has shown the slightest sign of weakening since King was first questioned about his tax affairs in 2002. The last public statements from both sides came in November 2008 when, within on the same day, King accused SARS of hypocrisy and monumental bungling and pointed out some of the other cases, similar to his own but not quite as personal, that SARS attempted to prosecute, but failed to do so because of supposed errors in its investigation.

SARS retorted with an unprecedented venom. "He (King] has acted fraudulently, evaded tax and lied about his income and profits generated since 1990," said a statement from the revenue service at the time.

"He attempts to erode the culture of growing tax compliance in South Africa."

Rangers fans are desperate for some good news on the ownership of their club, currently stymied by a debt of 31m and a refusal on the part of its controllers, the Lloyds Banking Group, to allow them buy new players.

Last week was an embarrassing one for the champions. It was initially revealed that Martin Bain, the club's chief executive, had offered Kris Boyd, the most important player at Ibrox, a new deal worth 18,000 a week, but that offer has not yet been sanctioned by Lloyds. Maybe it will be yet, but it was still a reminder of who controls the purse strings at Rangers these days.

The story that King had made a failed bid for the club was taken at face value by a support that has long since viewed the Lloyds Group as an occupying force that is going to end up running the club into the ground. There is still hope among Rangers fans that King and his consortium will save them. They see him as the only way the club can be delivered from the hands of the Lloyds Group.

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SARS is now saying that King is not in the game at all. Or, if he is, he won't be allowed to stay in it unless he gets his worldwide preservation order lifted or pays the vast sums the authorities say he owes back in South Africa, thereby removing the criminal charges against his name. All 322 of them.