What you probably don’t know about Harry Redknapp, the famous Spurs manager currently in court for tax evasion in London, is just how popular the bloke is.
Father of the talented Jamie, now a television presenter after a successful career with Liverpool and England, Our ‘Arry is beloved of journalists and would be a popular choice to take over the England job if Fabio Capello resigns after Euro 2012 later this year.
Badly injured in a car crash which killed his close mate and Bournemouth FC owner Brian Tiler at the World Cup in 1990, ‘Arry is not your typical frosty football boss.
As he approaches what used to be a pensionable age – he’ll be 65 on March 2 – ‘Arry has manipulated Spurs into a position of title contention after taking over from the clueless Juande Ramos three years ago with the club languishing at the bottom of the Premier League.
Conviction for tax fraud for one of Britain’s great sporting icons, who took a break from his beloved bench to undergo heart surgery last year, is simply unthinkable.
Through a long, largely successful career in management (West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Portsmouth again and now Tottenham) after a modest stint as a player mostly at West Ham and Bournemouth, he has always been good for a quote, a larf, a sound-bite.
I say always. There was the time he said he’d "sue the b*******" off one my old mate Rob Beasley, the News of the World football reporter who asked too many questions about his tax dealings. Still, at least he’s outlasted the newspaper.
Harry’s problem revolves around a bank account set up in his dog’s name – Rosie47 (the dog and the year of his birth) was allegedly the Monaco-based off-shore home for his ill-gotten gains.
Now, after all those years of entertainment, we are told by the court in Southwark that he has been "feigning ignorance" about his illegal dealings “for six years before his arrest” despite telling police “I’m not on the fiddle” as he and his former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric were questioned over two payments amounting to £189,000.
Redknapp insists his dog’s account – soon to be moved to Hounduras, Barklays Bank, apparently, using a pawpal transfer according to the wags – was built up through transfer profit bonuses. Mandaric, unfortunately, insists the money was “an investment fund” set up outside of football.
John Black QC, prosecuting in the tax evasion trial at Southwark Crown Court this week, recounted a conversation between Beasley and Redknapp. ‘Arry told the reporter: “I’ve got the best accountants in England, the Inland Revenue know about Monaco.”
But Beasley then mentioned Mandaric's explanation and ‘Arry said: "He don't know what he is f***ing talking about. What is he talking about? It is a bonus."
Redknapp insisted the cash came from profits made on the sale of Peter Crouch from Portsmouth to Aston Villa – he was later to sign the gangly striker again at Spurs.
He added: "If it was something dodgy I would have gone over there and brought it back in a briefcase."
When Beasley asked him whether he had paid any tax in the UK on it, Redknapp replied: "Haven't been asked to, Rob."
Redknapp said "there ain't nothing crooked in it" and told Beasley: "Don't say bung. It's nothing to do with a bung. It's paid by the chairman.
"How can it be a bung when the chairman of the football club paid me? What's a bung? It's a f****** sick word."
It’s the idea of ‘Arry being paid the money in to an account in his dog’s name that has really captured the imagination though. Redknapp declared the account to tax inspectors just before he left Portsmouth for Spurs in 2008 and told police he thought the “Rosie account” was dormant and that he didn’t know Mandaric, now 73 and chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, had put any money in it.
Redknapp told the police: “Milan's probably lost it. I could show you people who I have lent money to in investments.
"It would blow your brains away, the money I have squandered but then I do trust people, that's the way I live my life.
"I was told I wasn't liable for income tax on so many occasions. For the sake of that amount of money or any amount of money, I don't fiddle. I pay my tax since I have been in football my entire life. I pay every penny."
But the prosecution says ‘Arry only mentioned the Monaco account after he was questioned during the Premier League-led Quest investigation in 2006.
Mr Black said: "The existence of the bank account was not registered to Revenue and Customs for a period of six years, two months... after Mr Redknapp was first arrested and questioned in the course of this investigation.
“It's clear that it was only at this time that Mr Redknapp brought to the attention the existence of the Monaco bank account, feigning almost total ignorance of its existence, its operation and its contents."
Redknapp and Mandaric deny two counts of cheating the taxman. The trial continues...Read Scoop!, South Africa's new Sunday tabloid for more from me on this story - available at Gauteng and KZN outlets. See also www.scoopnews.co.za