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By ESPN Staff
Dec 23, 2006

Quest MD: Bungs report not 'watered down'

The chief investigator in the Lord Stevens bungs inquiry has strongly rejected claims that this week's report into illegal payments was watered down under pressure from Premier League clubs.

Nigel Layton, managing director and founder of the security firm Quest, also revealed to PA Sport that some Premiership managers' bank accounts - including those in offshore banks - were inspected by the investigators.

Layton said 17 transfer deals still under investigation were similar in complexity to the intricate international financial web he had to untangle in five years probing Robert Maxwell's missing millions.

The Quest report was launched this week by the firm's chairman Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner, but a leaked letter to club chairmen from Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore on the same day suggested that he had persuaded Quest to take on board the clubs' concerns.

There have also been allegations of `a whitewash' because the inquiry has not so far named any names.

There are misgivings among investigators about the wording of Scudamore's letter, but Layton is adamant they have not been swayed at all by the club's wishes.

Layton said: 'The clubs did not have input into it, they did not see the recommendations beforehand and they certainly did not water it down.

'I have run the inquiry on a day-to-day basis and I know that did not happen, and we have published our process document explaining exactly what we did.

'It has been totally independent. People have jumped on a letter to the clubs but I can vouch for the fact that is not the case.

'There was a meeting with the clubs in October where we presented a list of observations, but only observations. I understand from Richard they had a debate afterwards and actually said they did not want us to make any recommendations until the end of the inquiry, and that fitted in with us.

'A few comments came back from that meeting but nothing substantial and nothing was changed as a result. The document we presented on Tuesday was very, very different.'

Layton confirmed that during the course of the investigation a number of Premiership managers and other club officials had agreed to have their personal accounts inspected.

The money trail of the remaining 17 transfers of the 362 investigated has ended at the doors of eight agents who have so far refused to co-operate.

He added: 'Where we have asked for it, we have had co-operation from club officials including managers and others in respect of asking to look at personal bank accounts, on and offshore, and that's unprecedented. If we asked for it we got it, and it was entirely voluntary.

'We are now going to see the FA, and FIFA with respect to the overseas agents, to see if we can get the assistance we need to get these eight agents to comply.'

All of the 17 remaining transfers have an international element to them, and in places such as South America transfer fees are often split between numerous parties.

Layton said: 'In some cases it is very tricky. The money-flows, the amounts involved, the complexity and being on and offshore, it is in some ways very like the Maxwell investigation.

'It's a bit of deja vu for me, with money going all over the place. We have followed that money as far as we have been able, which has taken us to these agents.

'In South America particularly there are multi-owners of players but you can still have a perfectly legitimate transfer on that basis and looking at the money flows is not something you cannot deal with.'

The FA reacted with some anger to the criticism against them in Quest's report, and chief executive Brian Barwick claimed all but one of Stevens' 39 recommendations are due to be introduced in May anyway, and that there was 'little detail concerning irregular transfer activities' in the inquiry's findings.

Layton accepted that many of the recommendations were already in the pipeline but pointed out that many of them were dependent on the Burns review being voted in by FA shareholders in March.

He added that the inquiry had been prevented in naming names of any suspects because information had been passed to the authorities - two agents are under investigation by the City of London police.

Layton said: 'Yes, the FA are doing a lot of the recommendations but we have put everything down there that we think is important. It's vital this inquiry had a document that was saying what we thought needed to be done.

'Not all of them have been agreed yet though and this will add weight to ensure the important ones go through.

'In terms of naming names, we cannot prejudice the authorities' investigations. Legally we cannot name names and it is wrong to say those investigations are just a smokescreen. We really cannot name names and are bound by things such as tipping off provisions.'