LONDON – Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was cleared of tax evasion on Wednesday, a 12-0 victory via a British jury that removes a key barrier to his becoming the next coach of England's national team.
The jury of eight men and four women unanimously accepted that Redknapp did not conceal $295,000 of transfer bonuses in a Monaco bank account while he was in charge of Portsmouth.
In a case that stemmed from an 8 million pound ($13 million) police inquiry into soccer corruption, former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric also was found not guilty of two counts of cheating the public purse.
Mandaric hugged Redknapp as the verdict was announced, and their supporters cheered from the back of the courtroom after the two-week trial at Southwark Crown Court.
"It really has been a nightmare," said Redknapp, who was first arrested in 2007. "It's been five years and this is a case that should never have come to court because it's unbelievable, really.
"It was horrendous, you know, but ... the jury were absolutely unanimous that there was no case to answer. I'm pleased now we can go home and get on with our lives."
The 64-year-old was brought to Tottenham from Portsmouth in 2008 despite the allegations.
"Everyone at the club is delighted for Harry and his family," Tottenham said in a statement. "This has been hanging over him for over four years and the last two weeks have been particularly difficult. We are pleased to see this resolved and we all look forward to the rest of the season."
In his third decade in management, the former West Ham player is enjoying his most successful period, making him the favorite to replace Fabio Capello with England after the European Championship this summer.
As Redknapp was cleared, Capello was at Wembley Stadium seeking to resolve a dispute with Football Association executives over the decision to remove John Terry as England's captain. Terry faces trial in July on charges of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
"Now that Harry has been proved innocent it makes a clear path should the FA wish in the future to offer him the England manager's job when Fabio Capello comes to the end of his reign," former England coach Graham Taylor said.
Redknapp managed Portsmouth from 2002-04 and returned in 2005 after a brief spell at Southampton, winning the FA Cup before moving to Tottenham in 2008. Tottenham is in contention for its first English league title since 1961, currently third in the Premier League.
The prosecution claimed that Mandaric paid $145,000 into Redknapp's Monaco bank account in 2002 — a bonus prompted by Peter Crouch's sale from Portsmouth to Aston Villa — and another $150,000 two years later.
But jurors accepted Redknapp and Mandaric's evidence that the Rosie 47 bank account, named after the manager's dog and his birth year, had nothing to do with soccer matters. The 73-year-old Mandaric claimed he was providing tax-free loans for investing.
Britain's tax authority said it had "no regrets" about taking the case to trial, but experts questioned why the costly high-profile prosecution was pursued.
"The Premier League will contribute over 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) to the exchequer (in taxes this season) for the first time," said Pete Hackleton, a sports expert at accountancy firm Saffery Champness. "Yet (the tax authority) appear to give disproportionate focus to the tax affairs of football clubs and those involved in the industry, often spending significant time and resource conducting inquiries and taking high-profile cases."
Rob Harris can be reached at www.twitter.com/RobHarrisUK