Newcastle United await High Court ruling over documents seized by tax officials

St James's Park was raided by tax officials in April.
St James's Park was raided by tax officials in April.

Newcastle United are to find out if they have scored a success in a High Court challenge over the seizure of documents by tax officials investigating the financial affairs of several football clubs.

St James' Park and West Ham United's ground were raided in April by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as part of a probe into suspected income tax and national insurance fraud.

Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley, whose home was also searched, was among a number of senior European football officials arrested and later released without charge.

Business and financial records were seized, as well as computers and mobile phones belonging to the club, which recently secured promotion to the Premier League.

The HMRC investigation centres on football agents and payments made in transfer dealings between English and French clubs.

Two judges, who heard the case in London in July, will announce their decision on Wednesday on Newcastle's challenge over the legality of search-and-seize orders obtained by HMRC from a judge at Leeds Crown Court.

Lord Justice Beatson and Mrs Justice Whipple heard argument on behalf of the club that no reasonable grounds existed for believing Newcastle United FC engaged in a suspected tax fraud.

Richard Lissack QC said the warrants were ''excessively wide'', adding: ''There were no reasonable grounds for believing Newcastle was engaged in suspected tax fraud.''

He said the warrants, which the judges have been asked to quash, were also unnecessary because other methods were available for obtaining information.

Mr Lissack said the HMRC's case was based on flawed information.

But the judges heard submissions on behalf of HMRC that reasonable grounds existed for believing Newcastle United FC was ''knowingly involved'' in a multi-million-pound tax fraud when club offices were raided.

Court orders are preventing HMRC officers from examining the seized material pending the outcome the High Court action.

A QC for HMRC told the judges that because of those orders, it was not known if the seized material "inculpates or exculpates" the club.