Free at last! Five-year ordeal is over for Redknapp… is he now destined for England
Harry Redknapp is free to head back to his Dorset home and enjoy dinner with his wife, free to take training at Tottenham for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks . . . and free to become the next England manager should the FA choose to pursue him.
After spending just five hours deliberating, the jury at Southwark Crown Court cleared Redknapp and Milan Mandaric of all the charges of tax evasion on Wednesday.
The multi-millionaire former Portsmouth chairman had not tried to cheat the public purse of 15,473 when he made that first payment into the then Portsmouth manager’s Monaco bank account — just as Redknapp, at that time earning almost 2million a year, had not tried to save himself 30,723 in income tax
Outside court: Harry Redknapp addresses the media after being found not guilty of tax evasion
All over: Redknapp (left) leaves Southwark Crown Court after being cleared of all charges
With each passing day it felt more and more like a ridiculous trial. When the four verdicts of ‘not guilty’ were returned, the two men who were likened this week to Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon’s Odd Couple hugged in the witness box.
In the public gallery Redknapp’s son, Jamie, reported the news back home on his mobile phone. He had been in court with his father every one of the 13 days, had been reduced to an emotional wreck during the five-and-a-half hours his father spent on the stand, but the father and son were soon embracing once Judge Anthony Leonard had told the two defendants they could go.
For Redknapp this was not just the end of a gruelling, gut-wrenching trial. It was the end of a ‘nightmare’; a four-and-a-half-year investigation into his financial affairs — eight if you include the civil tax inquiry into a 300,000 payment he received from West Ham when Rio Ferdinand moved to Leeds United.
His house was raided by police one morning when he was returning from a scouting trip, terrifying his wife Sandra. The raid was led by the same policeman he turned on in court last week and whom Mandaric made a point of addressing politely at the end of the trial.
As those closest to Redknapp said, the fear of a guilty verdict, of ending with a term in jail, was never far from his mind.
Nervous times: Redknapp was again joined by his son, Jamie (left), as the two-week case reached its climax
Even after guiding Tottenham to the Champions League and victories over Inter and AC Milan, the joy would soon give way to the terrifying prospect of justice not being done. There was nothing anyone could say to ease those fears, not even when John Kelsey-Fry, his brilliant defence QC, told him over dinner on Tuesday that he was supremely confident of victory.
Redknapp did not sleep a wink in his London hotel and, as he waited for the jury to return, a friend said the 64-year-old was trembling with fear. On Wednesday, he said he was hugely appreciative of the support he received from Richard Bevan, the League Managers Association chief executive who had been in court most days.
HARRY'S SUPPORT ON TWITTER
Rio Ferdinand: Great to see Harry cleared of any wrong doing over 'tax evasion'. Glad for him + the Redknapp family.
Phil Neville: Great to see Harry Redknapp cleared of tax evasion
Michael Vaughan: Give Harry the England job now… #notguilty
But Kelsey-Fry was right and, shortly after 11.30am, Redknapp emerged from the ordeal with his reputation intact. He was cleared of any wrongdoing in that civil tax inquiry, just as he was acquitted on Wednesday. There is no stain on Redknapp’s character; nothing that can be held against him. As he told the police and the News of the World reporter who rang him 48 hours before the 2009 Carling Cup final, ‘you’ll find nothing on me’.
It means Redknapp can return to the role he performs with such distinction; that of a football manager with the ability to get the best out of the teams he skilfully creates.
Under Redknapp, West Ham finished fifth in the Premier League; under Redknapp Portsmouth not only established themselves in the top flight but also won the FA Cup; and under Redknapp Tottenham have their finest team in decades; a team challenging the might of Manchester in this season’s title race and, in the opinion of Sir Alex Ferguson, playing the best football in England.
Gone: Fabio Capello quit as England boss, paving the way for Redknapp to take over the reigns
It is for that reason this Englishman should be the first person the FA turn to in their search for a successor to Fabio Capello. After what Redknapp has been through, no aspect of the England job will worry him.
He was exhausted on Wednesday, and understandably so after what was the biggest corruption case in modern English football. It offered a fascinating insight into the lives of the two men and provided lighter moments too.
THE THINGS HE SAID…
I am a fantastic football manager, not a hard-headed businessman. I’ve got no business acumen whatsoever
— Redknapp gives evidence and denies dodging tax.
You think I put my hand on the Bible and told lies That’s an insult, Mr Black, that’s an insult
— The manager fights back tears as he responds to prosecutor John Black’s accusation that he told ‘a pack of lies’.
If she was half as nice as Rosie he’s got a good wife
— Redknapp is asked about another HSBC Monaco account named Rosie, which was his dog’s name.
Mr Manley, will you please stop staring at me. I know you are trying to cause me a problem, OK
— Redknapp interrupts his evidence to vent his anger at Detective Inspector Dave Manley.
I don’t have to tell Mr Beasley the truth. I have to tell police the truth, not Mr Beasley, he’s a News of the World reporter
— The defendant is cross-examined about misleading journalist Rob Beasley.
‘They’re amazing these legal people,’ whispered Redknapp at one stage as he looked across to the prosecution bench. ‘They’re so nice to you, all polite, and then suddenly they try to kill you.’
It was classic Redknapp, and there were other such moments as the story of a football man who had been anything but a ‘hard-headed businessman’ unfolded. It was the story of a life away from football that sounds a little chaotic, with millions seemingly squandered on impulsive business deals.
His now deceased bulldog Rosie became the most famous canine on the planet for the duration of the trial, that being the name he used for the account in Monaco. The 47 was not, as one television journalist is said to have remarked, a reference to the year the dog was born but the year its master was born.
Redknapp had the jury in stitches at times, not least when reflecting on the possibility that another ‘Rosie’ account in Monaco might have been named after somebody’s wife. ‘If she was half as nice as Rosie he’s got a good wife,’ Redknapp mused.
Leading the prosecution, John Black QC wasted no time in referring to the dirtiest word in football. That ‘f*****g sick word’ as Redknapp put it in the taped interview with News of the World reporter Rob Beasley. Black said the payments amounted to a ‘bung’. The court heard how two payments, totalling $295,000, were the product of a dispute over the transfer of Peter Crouch from Portsmouth to Aston Villa in 2002.
Redknapp had demanded 10 per cent of the net profit from the transfer because that had been the terms of his contract as the director of football when he recruited Crouch. Those terms changed when he became manager and Redknapp was due five per cent.
Decision day: Harry Redknapp arrives at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday
Cash trail: One charge related to the profits made by the sale of Peter Crouch to Aston Villa in 2002
But he complained to Mandaric he should have received 10 per cent when that was what he would have been due when Crouch was signed from QPR. Despite Redknapp calling the $295,000 deposited into his Monaco account ‘a bonus’ in the interview Beasley taped without Redknapp’s knowledge — a tape central to the Crown’s case — the physical evidence only ever pointed to an investment Mandaric made for his ‘special friend’.
As Kelsey-Fry said: ‘Harry Redknapp’s voluntary disclosure of the Monaco account was the “acid test” that it was not, as the prosecution claim, a secret, and what did he do with the money For six years, until 2008, he did absolutely nothing. When Mr Redknapp moved in 2003 he never even bothered to tell the bank holding his secret nest egg.’
The court also heard evidence from Nigel Layton, the managing director of Quest when Lord Stevens enlisted their services to conduct the inquiry into Premier League transfers between January 1, 2004 and January 31, 2006.
The Premier League paid the best part of 1m for the ‘bungs inquiry’ and the sketchy nature of Layton’s evidence — he struggled to recall the precise details of meetings with Redknapp and his representatives — was more than a little surprising.
Layton did, however, confirm that Redknapp voluntarily revealed Rosie 47 in November 2006, despite the fact that ‘Quest had no power whatsoever to force disclosure’.
While Quest were satisfied with the information they received from Redknapp, they still passed on the information to the City of London Police. Not that the police mentioned that to Redknapp during their interviews. They did not mention that they were in possession of the Beasley interview tapes either.
Old pals: Redknapp with his former chairman Mandaric during their days at Portsmouth
As the trial progressed, it emerged Redknapp had walked away from a 140,000 pay-off when he resigned as Portsmouth manager in 2004, insisting he did not ‘want their money’ after an acrimonious split with Mandaric.
‘Now why am I going to fiddle 30 grand in income tax and then walk away from 200 (he could not recall the exact figure) grand six months later’ said Redknapp.
Perhaps the most poignant moment was when the court heard Redknapp telling the police of the problem he has writing and spelling. ‘Like a two-year-old,’ he said, before confessing not being able to fill out a teamsheet. Jamie Redknapp was shaken by the sight of his father being laid bare in such a manner.
The darkest moment had to be when Redknapp turned on Det Insp David Manley. ‘Mr Manley, will you stop staring at me,’ he said. ‘I know you are trying to cause me a problem.’
Redknapp endured the accusation from Black that he was ‘telling a pack of lies’. ‘That is an insult,’ Redknapp replied, and on Wednesday, the jury agreed that it was.
Now give him the England job.