Johnston ponders what might have been

PA Sport
Alastair Johnston, pictured, believes the oldco could have survived if the tax case verdict had been delivered before Craig Whyte's takeover
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Alastair Johnston, pictured, believes the oldco could have survived if the tax case verdict had been …

Former Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston believes the oldco club would have survived had the big tax case verdict been delivered before Craig Whyte's takeover.

Murray International Holdings claimed victory - and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs admitted defeat - when the verdict of the First Tier Tax Tribunal was made on Tuesday. After facing a potential bill of £75million, Rangers' appeal was allowed in principle with most of the controversial payments through Employment Benefit Trusts deemed to be loans rather than wages by two of three judges on the panel.

"We would not have gone through the administration and liquidation process, for sure," Johnston told STV. "If you will actually wind the clock back to the alternatives that the bank (Lloyds) and Murray Holdings had with respect to alternatives, the big hang-up was the contingent liability with this massive tax liability hanging over our heads."

Sir David Murray sold his majority stake to Craig Whyte for £1 in May 2011 with the tax case hanging over the club and Johnston feels the scenario that unfolded could have been avoided.

Whyte failed to pay any tax, including another historic liability of £2.8million, and HMRC forced the club into administration and ultimately towards liquidation.

Football finance expert Neil Patey believes the case had a major bearing on decisions made in the collapse of Rangers. He told Press Association Sport: "I think the big tax case potentially had two influences. Firstly, when Sir David Murray was trying to sell the club, it could well have put off some potential buyers of the club because the big tax case was hanging over Rangers.

"Without it, maybe other buyers may have come along, buyers who might have been a better outcome for Rangers than Craig Whyte. Secondly, after Craig Whyte had actually bought it, was he influenced by the fact that the big tax case was there?"

The outcome does not affect the newco Rangers, who are not liable for the unspecified amount the majority verdict decreed was due to HMRC. But it could influence the Scottish Premier League-appointed commission who will look into whether Rangers were guilty of making undisclosed payments to players.

And Murray is looking for a different sort of inquiry into leaked information surrounding the EBT payments. A statement from the company read: "While MIH has at all times respected the privacy of the Tax Tribunal proceedings, a substantial quantity of confidential information relating to the case has become available for public consumption, stimulating considerable discussion and often ill-informed debate."

The company added: "We therefore formally request that the relevant authorities investigate how these sensitive details have been released so widely. We have instructed our lawyers to retrospectively review online and printed publications relating to the case to identify whether legal redress is either appropriate or necessary."

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