THE offices of Newcastle and West Ham have been raided by tax officials as part of an Anglo-French investigation.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What is being investigated?
The investigation is looking into a suspected £5million fraud related to player transfers.
A spokesperson for HMRC said: “HMRC has arrested several men working within the professional football industry for a suspected £5million income tax and National Insurance fraud.
“180 HMRC officers have been deployed across the UK and France today. Investigators have searched a number of premises in the north east and south east 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.
“This criminal investigation sends a clear message that, whoever you are, if you commit tax fraud you can expect to face the consequences.”
When did the raids happen?
The coordinated raids, which included premises in France, took place on Wednesday morning and several men were arrested, including Newcastle’s managing director Lee Charnley.
Have the clubs said anything?
A West Ham spokesperson confirmed the club’s offices at the London Stadium were raided by HMRC officers and said the Premier League side was “cooperating fully” with the investigation.
There has been no official confirmation from Newcastle yet, although Press Association Sport understands St James’ Park was raided and Charnley has been arrested.
The Hammers are currently 14th in the Premier League table, seven points above the relegation zone, after an eventful first season at the former Olympic stadium.
The 39-year-old Charnley became Newcastle’s managing director three years ago, having quietly risen through the ranks at a club that has experienced considerable upheaval over the years.
Like his boss, club owner Mike Ashley, Charnley rarely, if ever, speaks to the media, but has been credited for keeping manager Rafael Benitez at the club despite last season’s relegation from the Premier League.
The news of the dramatic raids comes barely 36 hours after Newcastle’s return to the Premier League was confirmed with a 4-1 win over Preston on Monday.
What’s the expert view?
Andy Wood, a director at Enterprise Tax Consultants, believes the dramatic move by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reveals just how keen the authorities are to make examples of those suspected of tax evasion.
Wood said: “In my opinion, HMRC is being very bold in describing this as fraud from the outset, as that is a criminal offence and potentially carries severe penalties for individuals whom it can prove have been guilty of such activity.
“However, the Revenue has not been shy of late in making clear its desire to tackle high-profile figures and companies whom it believes are avoiding or evading tax, partly because of the deterrent effect.
“In football, that has been certainly the case following HMRC’s clamping down on the use of employee benefit trusts of the sort which were at the heart of Rangers’ liquidation in 2012 and the recent hearing in the Supreme Court.
“As well as HMRC getting tougher with those even suspected of impropriety, the investigation involving Newcastle and West Ham provides yet more evidence of how its international reach in trying to bring tax evaders to book is continually being increased by co-operation with foreign tax authorities.”
Will it affect Newcastle’s promotion?
The Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association are yet to comment on the investigation, but the alleged offences could potentially lead to independent investigations by all of the bodies mentioned.
The Premier League can deduct points and hand out large fines for any indiscretions that have been committed to gain an advantage over opposition, including financially, but due to the time an investigation could take any potential penalties may not happen until years down the line.