HMRC 'drops Newcastle and West Ham investigations', Newcastle take Premier League to Competition Appeal Tribunal

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley: "I am pleased that the criminal investigation has now been discontinued. It is now time for the dark forces that are preventing this football club from becoming the powerhouse that the fans deserve, to step aside"

Newcastle United's owner Mike Ashley
Image: Newcastle United's owner Mike Ashley

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has ended its criminal investigation into Newcastle, while Sky Sports News has been told its investigation into West Ham is also at an end.

One hundred and eighty HMRC officers raided club offices at St James' Park and the London Stadium on April 26, 2017 - taking away computers, financial records and mobile phones as part of Operation Loom.

Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley was arrested but later released without charge.

St James' Park
Image: St James' Park was raided in April 2017 as part of the HMRC investigation

When asked if it could confirm its inquiries into West Ham and Newcastle were at an end, an HMRC spokesman told Sky Sports News: "We do not comment on specific individuals or businesses, but in general terms it would be wrong to assume that the end of a criminal investigation means the end of our work.

"We have a raft of civil powers that we can deploy, including penalties of up to 200 per cent of the tax due, along with interest and payment of the disputed tax in full.

"We take all reports of suspected tax evasion extremely seriously and we thoroughly analyse and investigate them.

General view of the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic park (AP)
Image: West Ham's London Stadium was also raided by HMRC

"We're clear that everyone must pay what they owe under the law - regardless of their wealth or status.

"The department's work in the football industry is a demonstration of this ongoing effort and we look forward to continued co-operation with clubs and players throughout 2021."

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley said earlier: "After four years of the club being subjected to this investigation, I am pleased that the criminal investigation has now been discontinued.

"It is now time for the dark forces that are preventing this football club from becoming the powerhouse that the fans deserve, to step aside."

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Meanwhile, the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) says it received a claim for damages and/or an injunction from Ashley's St James Holdings company on April 22, under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998.

The Saudi-backed consortium ended its bid to buy Newcastle in July last year having agreed to purchase the club in April.

But the deal was still being scrutinised under the Premier League's owners' and directors' test 17 weeks later when the consortium withdrew its interest.

The claim says the Premier League "prevented, or hindered, the proposed takeover and knew that its actions would prevent and/or delay the proposed takeover".

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Ashley bought the Magpies for £134.4m in 2007, but has been trying to sell them for much of the time since.

As far as he was concerned last year, a deal which he believed could give the club the spending power he has been unable to provide had been done.

The CAT is a specialist judicial body which hears and decides cases involving competition or economic regulatory issues.

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