Premier League

Football tax fraud arrests made: Premier League clubs involved

British and French authorities searched premises, arrested several men and seized financial records over suspected tax fraud in the football industry.
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Newcastle United's English owner Mike Ashley (L) flanked by managing director Lee Charnley at St James Park,
IAN MACNICOL AFP

British and French authorities searched premises on both sides of the Channel on Wednesday, arresting several men and seizing financial records over suspected tax fraud in the football industry, officials said.

United: West Ham and Newcastle named

English Premier League club West Ham United confirmed it is under investigation after the UK tax authority HMRC said it has deployed nearly 200 officers over the case. Newcastle United is also thought to have been targeted but has yet to comment. The north east club won promotion back to the Premier League earlier this week.

The Press Association news agency reported that one of the raids was on Newcastle's St James' Park ground with managing director Lee Charnley among those arrested.

The London Stadium, home of West Ham United.

Both the Premier League and France's Professional Football League declined to comment on the matter when contacted by AFP.

Premier champions-elect Cheslea contacted

Premier League leaders Chelsea revealed they, too, had been visited by tax officials, but there is not thought to be any allegation of wrongdoing against the club.

'In connection with its wider investigation, HMRC has requested certain information which the club will provide,' a Chelsea spokesman said.

UK and French tax officers send clear message 

"180 HMRC officers have been deployed across the UK and France today,' the tax authority said in a statement. Investigators have searched a number of premises in the northeast and southeast of England and arrested the men and also seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones.

"The French authorities are assisting the UK investigation, have made arrests and several locations have been searched in France."

HMRC added: 'This criminal investigation sends a clear message that, whoever you are, if you commit tax fraud you can expect to face the consequences.

Newcastle United have enjoyed success on the pitch this season with promotion back to the Premier League secured.

'As this is an ongoing investigation, HMRC is unable to provide any further detail at this time.'

Transfer market and image rights link

British reports said the investigations were linked to the transfer market and several experts suggested the probes particularly concerned the issue of image rights. In January, the British parliament's Committee of Public Accounts published a report in which it said rules on image rights were being 'exploited' in order to avoid taxes.

The rule allows footballers to declare income from image rights separately to their main salary. It incentivises players to maximise the proportion of income that is deemed to be for image rights in order to reduce their tax liability.

43 players, eight agents, 12 clubs

In the report, the committee said HMRC had opened enquiries about the image rights of 43 football players, eight agents and 12 clubs.

The Premier League transfer market is by some distance the largest in Europe. Around £1.4 billion has been spent on transfers this season, according to financial analysts Deloitte, an increase of 32 percent on 2015-16.

West Ham and Newcastle have signed several players from French clubs in recent seasons, with Newcastle at one point dubbed the 'French legion' due to the number of French players in their ranks.