Lord Advocate criticized for “opaque and puzzling” fight against damages claim by Rangers buyer David Grier
SCOTLAND’s top legal official has come under fire for an “opaque and confusing” attempt to stave off a damages case brought by a key figure in the Ranger takeover by businessman Craig Whyte on club fraud investigation condemned.
Prosecutors are now arguing that they had some reasonable cause to prosecute David Grier, a Duff & Phelps executive and negotiator in the takeover as he seeks to avoid significant damage.
Lord Tire has previously ruled that there is no “probable cause” to prosecute Mr Grier who seeks £ 5million in damages from the Lord Advocate and £ 9million from Police Scotland.
Mr Grier and others have been the subject of detention and criminal proceedings along with others in connection with allegations of fraud following Mr Whyte’s purchase of Rangers from Sir David Murray for £ 1 in May 2011 and its subsequent sale before a judge who dismissed all charges.
Officers suspected Mr Grier, of London, of breaking the law during the sale on Ibrox’s side and the businessman was charged with fraud, conspiracy, a charge under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice – before the case was dropped.
Mr Grier has always said he was unaware that London-based fundraiser Ticketus financed Mr Whyte’s controversial purchase of the club by purchasing the rights to future subscriptions.
But in the damages case, Gerry Moynihan QC, acting for Lord Advocate James Wolffe, argued that there was some reasonable cause to move forward with the case, before the charges came forward. be abandoned.
He pointed to false statements made to an independent committee of the Rangers council, including a comfort letter at the time of the sale – which showed Mr Whyte was funding the purchase personally.
The police investigation was initiated against a controversial background of Mr. Whyte’s nine months of responsibility after his takeover in 2011.
Mr Whyte agreed to take on the Rangers’ financial obligations which included £ 18million bank debt, a potential £ 72million bill for a ‘big tax deal’, a liability of 2, £ 8million for a “little tax deal”, £ 1.7million for stadium repairs, £ 5million for players and £ 5million in working capital.
But he controversially helped finance his takeover by arranging an advance loan from London-based investment firm Ticketus against rights to three to four years of future sales of club memberships with the aim to raise £ 24million and repay bank debt under a stock purchase agreement with Sir David Murray.
The financing comfort letter was needed because the sale to Mr Whyte was on the verge of collapse, the sessional court said.
But Andrew Smith QC, representing Mr. Grier, said there was “no prima facie case for an objective assessment.”
He said: “In my opinion, the Lord Advocate’s position is opaque in many ways.
“And, as already established in my submission, there was no evidence to support the acquisition fraud charges. And it always has been.
“Thus, arrest and detention on request have never been justified as having objective, reasonable and probable cause.”
He said the comfort letter and representations from the independent committee “were never going to lead to proof of a crime” after the sessional court heard that the Ticketus deal had already been reached before that.
“They are absolutely irrelevant as a participant in fraud,” he said. “We know they’re not going anywhere.”
He also said there was no substance in Mr Grier being accused of perverting the course of justice by not knowing how Mr Whyte financed the acquisition of the club through the contract. Ticketus. Mr Moynihan said Ticketus needed “reassurance” to still have a claim on the subscriptions if the Rangers became insolvent.
“So what was done or what was deemed necessary was to comfort Ticketus, so that Ticketus would advance the money, so that he (Mr. Whyte) could show Murray International Holdings that he had the money available, and the transaction would continue.
“Without the comfort letter, it was understood that a transaction would have come to a halt. There was a risk involved, so this is the practical result.”
Mr Moynihan claimed that Mr Grier knew that unless Ticketus received “comfort” they would not provide the funds necessary to keep the purchase alive.
“’Keep the deal alive,’ are his words,” Mr. Moynihan said.
“The problem, of course, is that, it turned out that Ticketus put the money in the bank account, on the afternoon of April 7, so before the letters were typed. But it didn’t. was not what was understood at the time and was unforeseen. ”
Mr Moynihan added: “What I am suggesting is that there is evidence which motivated the prosecutor … was there objective probable cause for concluding that Mr Grier in the two alleged questions, the comfort letter and positive decision making false statements to the independent committee, that he was there with others.
“This is not something that (the courts) have been asked to rule on, because prosecutors had withdrawn that charge.”
Mr Whyte ended up being the last man standing in the fraud conspiracy case and was acquitted of taking over the club by fraud at the end of a seven-week trial four years ago.
David Whitehouse and Paul Clark
The case comes after former Rangers directors David Whitehouse and Paul Clark of Duff and Phelps agreed to a settlement estimated at around £ 24million after a deal in their malicious lawsuit against the Lord Advocate and the police chief was concluded “out of court”. .
In addition to damages, Mr. Grier, 58, also demanded a public apology from the officials.
The actions of Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Clark arose out of their alleged treatment by the police and the prosecution.
The Lord Advocate has already admitted malicious lawsuits and a human rights violation in the investigation as directors sought to clear their names.
Former Ranger executive Charles Green was also told he may have been able to receive damages after the Crown admitted to carrying out a “malicious” lawsuit against him.