Newcastle United begin legal challenge over investigation into financial affairs


Newcastle United kick off a High Court challenge on Thursday over the seizure of documents by tax officials investigating the financial affairs of several football clubs.

St James' Park and West Ham United's ground were raided in April by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as part of a probe into suspected income tax and national insurance fraud.

Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley was among a number of senior European football officials arrested and later released without charge.

The judicial review hearing follows an earlier High Court decision giving the club permission to challenge the search-and-seize order obtained by HMRC.

Mr Justice Supperstone ruled in June it was "arguable" on several grounds the search warrant was obtained unlawfully and said there must be a full court hearing of the issues.

Lord Justice Beatson and Mrs Justice Whipple will now hear the case over two days in London.

During the raids, business records and financial records were seized as well as computers and mobile phones belonging to the club, who recently secured promotion to the Premier League.

The HMRC investigation centres on football agents and payments made in transfer dealings between English and French clubs.

It has confirmed the French authorities are assisting the UK investigation.

Newcastle United argued at the hearing before Mr Justice Supperstone in London that the warrants were excessively wide, and there were no grounds to believe the club was engaged in suspected tax fraud.

Club lawyers also argued that the legal procedures followed when the warrants were obtained at Leeds Crown Court were flawed, and no proper reasons were given.

The judge said the absence of reasons made it harder for him to be satisfied the warrants were lawfully issued.

He added: "I am persuaded by Richard Lissack QC, who appears for the (club), that a number of points he takes in relation to other grounds of challenge make it at least arguable that their challenge to the warrants will succeed."

He continued orders preventing HMRC officers from examining the seized material pending the full hearing.