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Feb 8, 2012

Redknapp found not guilty

Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric have been found not guilty of both counts of tax evasion.

• Storrie: Slurs ruined my career

Jurors accepted Tottenham manager Redknapp's denials that he avoided tax on any payments over £189,000 found in a Monaco account.

His acquittal alongside co-defendant Mandaric calls a close on a five-year £8 million police investigation which did not yield a single conviction.

Mandaric and former Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie were also cleared of £600,000 tax evasion claims at a previous trial, it can be reported for the first time.

Redknapp and Mandaric hugged as the jury cleared them of all counts.

Redknapp was at times moved to the verge of tears as the Crown alleged that he told a pack of lies in an attempt to get off the hook.

But jurors accepted Redknapp and Mandaric's evidence that the Monaco account in the name of Redknapp's dog, Rosie, was nothing to do with footballing matters.

The two-week trial at London's Southwark Crown Court threatened to derail Redknapp's progress at the pinnacle of his 30-year managerial career.

Having led Spurs through their most successful period in the Premier League era, the Londoner was tipped as the outstanding favourite to replace Fabio Capello as England manager this summer.

With his name cleared in the courts, nothing would now appear to stand in the way for the Football Association to hire him.

The verdicts mark the end of an exhaustive inquiry into football corruption by tax authorities and City of London Police.

Police began pursuing Redknapp in 2006 after he admitted having the Monaco account as he was questioned by the Quest inquiry into Premier League bungs.

The transactions took place as the pair squabbled over a transfer bonus Redknapp was due for the £3 million profit the club made on the sale of England striker Peter Crouch.

But the jury accepted Redknapp's claim that he knew he was "morally but not legally'' entitled to the cash.

A recorded telephone conversation between News of the World reporter Rob Beasley and the pair in 2009 was a pivotal element in the Crown's case.

Redknapp telling Mr Beasley it was money for transfer bonuses was "the most compelling and important evidence'', prosecutor John Black QC said.

But defence barrister John Kelsey-Fry QC said the Sunday tabloid's evidence was "primarily despicable''.

"I do not shrink from suggesting to you it is repugnant to all our basic instincts of fairness in the criminal justice process,'' he said.

The case served up high courtroom drama over two weeks as one of the biggest names in English football appeared in the dock and gave an impassioned display in the witness box.

Redknapp attacked a detective for "staring'' and shouted at prosecutor Mr Black: "You think I put my hand on the bible and told lies? That's an insult, Mr Black, that's an insult.''

Redknapp said he was "a fantastic football manager, not a hard-headed businessman'' and had always paid too much taxes.

He also revealed that he had squandered millions in bad investments and had the writing ability of a two-year-old.

Serbian Mandaric, an entrepreneur behind a multibillion-dollar business empire, claimed he had paid £100 million in taxes during his time in football, adding: "Did I suddenly go crazy?''

Redknapp, of Poole, Dorset, first flew out to Monaco - a tax haven - in April 2002 to set up the account.

He did not tell investigators about Rosie 47 as tax officials investigated a £300,000 payment he received over Rio Ferdinand's record-breaking transfer between West Ham United and Leeds.

But he voluntarily gave details of the Monaco account as he was questioned by the Quest inquiry.

Mandaric and Redknapp embraced in the dock as the verdicts were read out after five hours of deliberations.

Redknapp immediately left the court, while Mandaric walked up to Detective Inspector Dave Manley to shake his hand and say "Thank you''.

Judge Anthony Leonard made no comment other than to discharge the jury.

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