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Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has claimed “dark forces” are preventing United from becoming the club they should be as he continues to put pressure on the Premier League to allow him to sell to a Saudi Arabian-led consortium.
In what is thought to be a reference to the long-running takeover saga involving Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which collapsed last year due to complications with the Premier League’s owner and director’s test, Ashley’s cryptic comment will fuel conspiracy theories on Tyneside.
Ashley is still awaiting the outcome of an arbitration hearing with the Premier League after he challenged their decision not to sanction the £305 million deal last year.
He believes the Premier League did not apply the test properly and were wrong to conclude that the PIF is controlled by the Saudi State.
And, having been told a four-year investigation by HMRC into the way Newcastle paid players and agents had been closed without finding any wrongdoing, Ashley went on the offensive again.
A club statement read: "HMRC has today given formal confirmation that it is discontinuing the 4 year long criminal investigation into the tax treatment of agents/players payments involving Newcastle United Football Club."
That was followed by a rare statement from Ashley himself, who added: "After four years of the club being subjected to this investigation, I am pleased that the criminal investigation has now been discontinued.
"It is now time for the dark forces that are preventing this football club from becoming the power house that the fans deserve, to step aside."
The HMRC investigation had looked into deals involving players like Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, with the club’s managing director Lee Charnley briefly held in custody after a raid at his home.