A malicious prosecution of figures involved in the takeover of Rangers which could cost taxpayers £100 million must be investigated, according to a former justice secretary.
The Lord Advocate has now admitted the prosecutions were “malicious” after the Crown was successfully sued by several of the men.
Kenny MacAskill MP, justice secretary from 2007 to 2014, said: “This is an unprecedented admission and a cause for concern. The Crown Office must act in a balanced way and in the public interest. As a defence agent for 20 years, I have never heard of a case where the Crown have admitted acting with malice.”
One expert said the costs to tax- payers of the case, in which those wrongly charged over the deal to buy Rangers out of administration are now seeking damages, could reach £100m. The case has also prompted questions over the judgment and actions of the Lord Advocate who initiated the prosecution, Frank Mulholland, who is now a judge, and his successor James Wolffe, under whom it continued before being scrapped.
A group which included former Ibrox chief executive Charles Green as well as David Whitehouse and Paul Clark of administrators Duff and Phelps were charged with serious criminal offences in 2015 before the case against them was dropped around a year later.
At a court hearing brought by two of them for compensation a fortnight ago, the Crown Office’s QC said the prosecution against Whitehouse and Clark had been “malicious” and damages would be negotiated.
One of Scotland’s leading QCs, who asked not to be named, told The Sunday Post: “I cannot think of any previous instance where the Crown have accepted they acted with malice. Given we are in unprecedented territory, the impact it could have on the Lord Advocates then and now is something we simply don’t know.”
PR executive Jack Irvine, an advisor to Mr Whitehouse and Mr Green, said: “Such an admission is unprecedented and has huge repercussions for the Scottish Government and the legal system.”
Mr Clark and Mr Whitehouse were cleared of wrongdoing in 2016 and are each seeking compensation of around £10m from the Crown Office and Police Scotland.
Two others involved in the 2012 Rangers buy-out, Mr Green and Imran Ahmad, have also received Crown Office apologies and are seeking damages of around £20m each. Another Duff and Phelps administrator, David Grier, who was also investigated then cleared, is suing for £2m.
Jim Diamond, an expert in legal costs, said: “You could quite easily be looking at costs in the region of £15-25m or more on top of the £70m damages being sought.”
Alastair Duncan QC, representing Police Scotland, said the case could now go on to focus on the force.
He said: “I can see that it is possible for this matter to proceed against the police only.”
The case involving Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark is due back in court at a later date.
The Crown Office said: “This prosecution has been subject to extensive review including by independent counsel. In light of that review, the Crown accepts legal liability to these pursuers. Proceedings remain live and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
The Judicial Office, which represents judges, said it was unable to comment during live court proceedings.