Leeds, Jersey and KPMG

Posted on

A couple of years ago I highlighted the offshore dimensions of the shenanigans then going on at Leeds United FC.

The debacle continues. David Conn has a full report on it in the Guardian today. This is a selection:

There is a certain symmetry to the fact that light has been shone on the mystifying offshore ownership of Ken Bates' Leeds United in a court case brought by the club in a tax haven, Jersey. At a hearing on 29 January, Leeds declared that Bates and a long-term business associate, Patrick Murrin, jointly own "management shares" in Forward Sports Fund, the company registered in the Cayman Islands, administered in Switzerland, which ultimately owns Leeds United.

Murrin and Mark Taylor, Bates' solicitor, both explained that that means they own the company.

The January hearing also produced the declaration that Forward Sports Fund was itself originally owned and formed by Astor Investments, a trust fund based in Guernsey with an address in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands. In May 2007, after Bates and his fellow directors had put insolvent Leeds into administration with debts of £38m, Astor agreed to write off a huge sum it was owed by the club, £17.6m, as long as Forward Sports Fund bought the club back and Bates remained in charge.

That gave Bates an enormous advantage over other bidders, who had to include Astor's £17.6m in any offer they made. In July 2007 the administrators, KPMG, did sell the club back to Forward, for £1.8m. With Astor waiving its £17.6m, Leeds' other creditors, including HM Revenue and Customs which was owed £7.7m unpaid tax and VAT, were paid off at 10p in the pound.

At the time the club entered administration, questions were asked about whether Astor was in fact connected to Forward. KPMG said then it had made "extensive inquiries", and been satisfied that Astor did not own any interest in the club or Forward Sports Fund. More recently KPMG told the Guardian that it had relied on sworn statements from Bates and the other Leeds directors.

There’s a lot more too.

Typical stuff. A multi-jurisdictional structure (Cayman, Guernsey, Switzerland, BVI, Jersey – talk about rounding up the ‚Äòusual suspects’)  designed to con: in this case the creditors of the football club including HMRC. Which means all UK taxpayers lost. And it was used to cover what we will politely call misrepresentations. And yet still these places say all they do is clean. Who are they kidding?

Well, KPMG for a start, or so it seems. The question is, why did KPMG act as it did when everything implied the opposite of what they were told?

I support an investigation.