These cases ought to have been open and shut.
Police and prosecutors should have been licking their chops over them.
These were the proverbial open goals and all the authorities had to do was knock the ball into the empty net. But a decade after the liquidation of Rangers – the centrepiece of one of the greatest scandals ever to unfold in Scotland – not one person involved has a black mark against his name, nor paid a major fine far less done a day in jail.
Criminal cases were filed.
Men trooped into courtrooms and then back out again.
Whyte, Green and the administrators of Duff and Phelps were charged for their roles in it.
David Murray sat aloof and above it all as usual, although the Supreme Court decided he had been the leading man in a major scam.
A convicted South African tax cheat came onto the scene, breaking corporate law in the UK as he did so, and he too strolled off into the sunset.
Of all of them, he remains the only one the courts have ever branded an out and out criminal, and he had that accolade before he ever got his hands on the Ibrox keys. It was the South African judiciary which chased him and brought him to some measure of justice, for a gigantic tax fraud against their own exchequer.
Those who defrauded ours got off scott-free.
The incredible thing about all this is that the men involved in the Great Ibrox Swindle went about their “business” in the full public gaze.
I have wracked my brain trying to think of a more obvious scam, conducted in the public sphere and under the noses of all those who were supposed to be watching out for it, and I can’t.
Save for the banking bail-out, you have to go to the movies; this is The Thomas Crown Affair, the heist in the opening scene of The Dark Knight, the caper in Ocean’s Eleven … except none of those was watched and cheered on by the media.
They were meant to be the last guardian of the public good, and that’s where this becomes something truly out of the ordinary. Nobody who had a position of responsibility in this acted like it.
They all pursued their own agendas, some hell bent on avenging the death of Rangers and some to get in good with the various regimes who’ve held the power at Sevco.
But nobody did what they were supposed to do.
Nobody looked out for the public interest. And that’s why the guilty men all walked away from the table with their pockets bulging, even as the cameras were trained on them, even as the pit-bosses watched, even when the floor manager knew something was rotten, even when the casino owners knew they were being scammed.
It was the peer of the realm who started all this, of course, the one above it all, the one who never got his grubby fingerprints on any of the truly dodgy stuff, the one who even the banks looked after with mammoth debt write offs and restructuring.
Murray moved in all the right circles and knew all the tricks and in his mobile phone were all the right names and the right numbers.
Did he know other things, like where some of the bodies were buried? His role in all this has always been misrepresented by the media; in who’s interests have they kept silent on the size of this thing? Certainly his, but I know that others are being protected too because the scale of it is enormous, and it’s never been fully explored and recognised as such.
Do the research and it’s all there in black and white. Rangers was allowed to overspend like few clubs in British football history ever were. They posted annual losses in the tens of millions, year on year. They lived beyond their means in a way that should have killed them stone dead long before 2012 and the intervention of the man who bought the club for £1.
The media has always maintained that it was Murray who carried those debts, but that’s one of the most grotesque lies of all … he passed those debts between his companies, hiding it amidst the larger debts of Murray International, and the bank allowed it. In the end when that bank was nationalised the tax-payer ate all of it.
You and I paid for Rangers’ living it large, and that’s the hard truth of it. When people wonder why we insisted that the successor club started in the bottom tier that’s only one of the many, many, many reasons why.
Murray is not exactly persona non grata in the newsrooms, but he’s seen as slightly tainted. That won’t bother him one bit, as he viewed the press with contempt and treated them exactly the same way.
They served a purpose, which was to build his ego and reputation, and when those things were no longer of any value to him the media’s opinion ceased to be as well.
Still, they never hounded him the way they have others. They never called him what he really is.
He ought to have been the first person indicted over the Rangers scandal, but he was lucky in a sense, as his type of tax scam was the sort that they hand out knighthoods for, a high-end one, cleverly disguised, just on the borderline of legit at the time when he did it. Not so for the other Ibrox tax cheat, who claimed next to no income and then boasted to the South African press about his purchases at an art exhibition, thus incurring the scrutiny of SARS.
Murray got away with it all and barely broke sweat. His business empire is somewhat reduced but still intact. He walks between the raindrops to this day, and there’s even talk, every now and then, of him perhaps returning to the ground where he wrecked a football club once before. It would almost be worth the certain press adulation to see him try that and fail.
Craig Whyte is the villain of course, and so perfect for the role he might have come right out of Central Casting.
We’ll never actually find out whether he found Murray or if Murray found him, but both men claim to have been conned by the other and I get a certain kick out of that and hope that in some ways the stitch up went both ways.
I’ve never cared which of them was telling the truth.
I have long suspected that Murray knew exactly who and what Whyte was, and that others on the Ibrox board did too. While they claim to have tried to alert Murray to the possibility that he wasn’t on the level I have always wondered why they didn’t just take their findings to the press, unite the fans against the deal and kill it in the crib.
Whyte bought the club for a quid and there is little doubt that he got every penny out of his investment that he could. Whatever he took out of Ibrox in terms of cash over his crazy spell in charge, he gambled on a long-odds bet with an infinitesimal sum of money, and it was probably worth it for the sheer entertainment value of that cash alone.
But there is little doubt that he was running a scam.
It helped that so many of the witnesses against him were clearly untrustworthy or incompetent and that this was obvious to everyone in the courtroom. His acquittal was the first clear sign that nobody was going to end up legally responsible for the losses to all those creditors, which merely adds to the insult of how football betrayed them.
Football certainly did. The Survival Lie is one of the great disgraces of our time.
The Ibrox club might have been made start its life in the bottom tier, but with the SFA endorsing the manifest nonsense of the Club That Wouldn’t Die, the creditors were slapped in the face. Worse was to come. The SPFL changed its guidelines so that debt-dumping was seen as just another part of the business. The game is lucky that no club has tested that proposition so far.
But that luck will not last. Future creditors face being shafted. The next time a club does this they can pretend survival without even having to start in the bottom tier. That was our governing body’s response to what happened at Ibrox; not that the scandal of clubs spending beyond their means shouldn’t happen again, but that a NewCo starting at the bottom shouldn’t.
It is outrageous beyond belief.
Duff and Phelps were chosen in advance of the Craig Whyte scam.
They were his hand-picked people. He had worked with at least one of their senior partners in the past.
That a judge allowed him to name his own administrator when it was patently obvious what he was up to was another disgrace. Let’s not forget that the administrators actually tried to sign a player only for the SFA to draw a line and refuse to register him. No real effort was made to “save the business” and key assets which would have fetched big money were never put up for sale.
The objective – which they almost accomplished – was to dump all the debts and have the club emerge from the other side intact, and still in the SPFL. HMRC smelled the scam from a mile away and dug in their heels, refused the CVA and asked for their cash.
I’ve always believed that Duff and Phelps worked absolutely counter to the best interests of the creditors. They sold the assets as a bundle to Green with virtually no due diligence and without doing any of the things that would be logical in such an asset sale. Their conduct throughout was bizarre and inexplicable … and they made millions in the process.
When they were indicted I was not in the least bit surprised, any more than I was when Whyte was indicted, followed by Charles Green. Nor was I surprised when they were let off, no more surprised than when Whyte was or when Green slipped the net.
How is it that nobody paid for this? How is that nobody got their just desserts for the losses to all those creditors? How could all the systems which were designed to protect them be allowed to operate as if they were trying to protect the guilty instead?
We now know that a big part of the problem was that Police Scotland went on an unholy crusade to punish everyone responsible, not as an agency of the state with a responsibility to do the job right and to bring people to justice, but as a group of rabid partisans who behaved without regard for the laws they were meant to uphold.
It was not only unprofessional conduct; it was corrupt conduct.
Those who were ultimately in the greatest position of responsibility acted in the most lamentable way, and in a fashion that assured that not one of the guilty would pay for what they had done. For when the organs of the state violate the rights of their citizens then their authority is shot, their credibility is destroyed and their findings are null and void.
This is how guilty people go free. This is how corrupt practices flourish in the first place, when the organs of justice do not operate with honest intent. It is clear that this was the case here; the objective was not justice, it was revenge, and not on behalf of those who were left out of pocket but out of a sense of ultimate loyalty to a dead football club.
The stories of how a senior police officer intimidated people, barracked witnesses and sang Rangers songs are incredible, but not in the least bit surprising.
The conduct of these Peepul was disgraceful, and far from being punished they were actually promoted which means that the corruption spreads even further up the ladder, and perhaps even right to the top.
And the ultimate result of their behaviour is that some of the very people who should have been made to pay for their sins have, instead, been able to sue … which means that the cost to the taxpayer of this whole shabby, sordid affair merely continues to rise.
The costs of what Rangers did are borne by every single citizen in this country and the bill comes due again and again and again and again. Celtic are no angels in this. We were a party to the Five Way Agreement and we have lamentably failed to reform the SFA.
These people might as well have been working hand in hand and arm in arm.
Far from being on different sides of the line, they have all played a role in depriving people of justice and cost the public purse even more millions … tens of millions.
There is not an honest man amongst them.
As far as I’m concerned they are the bastard children of Sevco and Ibrox is their little crooked house, and there their reputations should be interned. These people screwed the rest of us.