Newcastle United MD Lee Charnley arrested in tax raid
Mike Ashley's right-hand man held in HMRC inquiry targeting newly-promoted Magpies and West Ham
A day after Newcastle United were promoted to the Premier League the club's managing director Lee Charnley has been arrested as part of an investigation into suspected tax fraud.
The offices of both Newcastle and West Ham were raided by HM Revenue and Customs officers on Wednesday morning and "several men working within the professional football industry" were arrested "for a suspected income tax and national insurance fraud".
Properties in the UK and France have been searched and 180 officers were involved in the operation, according to the Daily Telegraph, which says that no arrests were made at West Ham.
"Action has been taken as tax officers further investigate transfers dating back as far as seven years at both clubs," says the paper. "The officials have demanded details of every transfer deal undertaken by the clubs over that period including seizing computers and business and financial records. Mobile phones have also been confiscated.
"They are examining the deals and the fees paid to players and agents following the transfers in an investigation that is understood to have originated in France."
Newcastle and West Ham are not thought to be the only clubs involved, adds the paper.
Newcastle MD Charnley is the only arrested person who has been named, says the Daily Mirror. It describes him as Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's "right-hand man" and adds: "He played a key role in bringing in Rafa Benitez and also has a big say on player transfers.
"Records at Companies House show he has held senior positions at a total of 35 different companies."
The news is a "kick in the teeth" for Newcastle fans, says The Times, which notes that the Tyneside club has had strong ties with France in recent seasons. It adds that MD Charnley, who earns £150,000 a year, "is the man who runs Newcastle on [owner Mike] Ashley's behalf".
"There was a time when Newcastle made great play of their connections in France," adds the paper. "Through Graham Carr, their chief scout, they made inroads across the channel, signing players such as Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa for limited fees, far removed from the inflated domestic market. It is part of what made them different and, in their view, more astute."