Craig Whyte being made fall guy over Rangers deal, fraud trial told

Craig Whyte being made fall guy over Rangers deal, fraud trial told
Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte

Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte is being portrayed as "the fall guy" over the takeover of the club, his fraud trial has been told.

Donald Findlay QC, defending Whyte, told jurors at the High Court in Glasgow that Whyte and previous owner Sir David Murray had been "ill-served" by their advisers in the run-up to the deal.

Whyte is accused of acquiring Rangers by fraud in May 2011. He denies the charge, and another under the Companies Act.

The court has heard the sale was eventually made to Whyte for £1 but came with a number of financial obligations, including the clearing of a large bank debt.

The Crown alleges Whyte pretended to then owner Sir David that funds were ''immediately available'' on an ''unconditional basis'' to make all required payments for a controlling and majority stake in the Glasgow club.

Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC previously said the accused, and his Wavetower company, did not have authority over the funds used in the takeover, which amounted to £1 million from finance company Merchant Turnaround, about £3 million from the Jerome Group pension fund and £24 million from ticketing firm Ticketus.

In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Findlay said Sir David made two "catastrophic mistakes" following the 2008 financial crisis, which were to entrust the running of the club to people who "didn't have a clue what they were doing" and leaving everything to his advisers, who "let him down very very badly".

He said that when Whyte came forward proposing to buy the club, the advisers did not question where the money was to come from.

He told jurors: "By the time Mr Whyte's proposal comes along, Rangers are beginning to decline, the playing squad were declining, the glory days were behind them, hard times were ahead and those running the club didn't know what to do.

"Murray could no longer bankroll Rangers, there was no more money from Rangers or the bank.

"Mr Whyte comes along with a plan and thereafter Sir David Murray's advisers are interested in 'have you got the money? Have you got the money?' The question being asked is money, money, money, week after week, month after month.

"What was the question they didn't pursue to any extent at all?

"Where is it coming from? Because if that was the question that mattered, surely that was the question you would have expected your lawyer to ask on your behalf.

"They were not interested in where the money came from and we know this absolutely categorically."

He said "the deal was more important than the detail".

Mr Findlay also said advisers spent "not a single, solitary penny" checking out Whyte and his background.

He said that throughout the trial many witnesses have sought to absolve themselves from responsibility, taking the attitude "it wisnae me".

The defence lawyer told jurors: "Before this trial started, beyond this court and elsewhere, there have been attempts to portray Craig Whyte as a pantomime villain, the person responsible, so he must take the whole blame.

"Aided and abetted by the Crown approach, people are now trying to make him the fall guy and that's what this is about, he is being made to be the fall guy. Before you do that you have to look at the evidence."

The trial before Lady Stacey continues.

Mr Findlay said that Mr Whyte met obligations to pay off the bank debt, carry out repairs to the stadium and money was spent on players, while a case referred to as the "small tax case" was appealed.

Turning to the involvement of Ticketus, he said Ticketus knew "from the word go" that the funds would be used towards the acquisition of Rangers Football Club and any element of secrecy came from them.

He said: "Mr Whyte goes to Ticketus to see if he can raise £10 million and the indications are that Ticketus are keen on the deal.

"He goes back to see if he can get more and in terms of a deal to buy Rangers he now has £20 million.

"There is a secrecy element to this.

"The Crown of course want to say that this suggests this is part of the dishonest plan, whereas the very origins of that deal can be found very early on in the papers in that case."

He added: "Nothing, absolutely nothing was held from Ticketus, Ticketus knew from the word go.

"Ticketus knew perfectly well that their money was being used to clear off the bank debt as part of the acquisition of Rangers Football Club.

"Ticketus wanted their involvement kept secret."

Mr Findlay said that some involved in the Murray business knew "from a fairly early stage" that there were other investors involved along with Mr Whyte.

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