Craig Whyte was charged with two crimes. One of buying Rangers fraudulently and the other of a companies act ruling which said he used financial assistance to buy Rangers.
Much has been said during six weeks worth of evidence but most of it was sand dancing around the issue and “Mr McCoist, who is the current captain of Rangers.” must rank among the most ridiculous of meant irrelevant questions asked. I will however attempt to cut through the blinding nonsense to explain why a guilty should have been passed and where the prosecution went wrong in delivering their claims.
To commit fraud does not, oddly enough, require any party to lose out in anyway. Sir David Murray did not lose out in selling Rangers, and as was shown in the trial he did actually benefit eventually on doing so but that is not relevant in the charge and SDM was not on trial. To be committed of fraud requires the accused to lie or deceive in such a way that another makes a decision based on something you’ve told them or something you failed to tell them that would have made them sell the item they may not have sold if they knew the truth.
You may sell your house or car to someone who pays cash and you may ask them where they got their money from. If they told you they won the lottery when in fact they stole it or gained it via selling drugs you may happily sell them the house or car but if you knew the truth you may not have sold them the item in the first place. This would be fraud as you sold it based on information you were given which was a lie.
During the trial it was shown that Craig Whyte had used the clubs assets (three years of season ticket money in a loan via Ticketus) to fund the club and that he would put in further monies (for players, cash flow and maintenance) at predetermined times. This was all proven in a combination of emails, letters and testimony. Accepted and corroborated evidence. Not only did he fail to provide the extra capital he also, as was proven in testimony and emails, directed his lawyers to omit mention Ticketus deal from the paperwork provided to the Murray Group.
The fact he used third party funding wasn’t really the issue, the issue was he pawned three years of season tickets to do so and refused to others where this money was coming from and, as proven during the trial, if the seller was made aware of this then the sale would not have been concluded. There is the fraud.
He deceived the seller in a way that lead to the sale when, if he had provided the truth when asked and hadn’t told his lawyer to amend documents that clearly stated he was borrowing on three years of season ticket sales then the seller simply wouldn’t have sold to him. That is fraud. Guilty
As Lady Stacey rightly pointed out, you can use financial assistance if the financial assistance is done in a way that benefits the company. Financial assistance is using a companies assets to purchase a company.
It was accepted in court that Whyte borrowed against a company asset (season ticket money) to provide the capital to pay off the bank debt. Normally this would be against the law however it was argued by the defence QC that by doing so this saved the club £1m a year in bank charges and was indeed a benefit. The fact that Ticketus and Wavetower (Whytes company that was used to lend the sum to the club) both charged fees and interest seemed to be ignored by the defence, the prosecution, the judge and the jury.
If the crown had bothered to argue this point and show charges where indeed made against the debt there would have been no such benefit to the company and nothing other than a guilty could have been handed out.
The short amount of time taken by the jury to deliver a verdict was surprising to some and the fact they delivered a split decision after such a short time raised more than a few eyebrows. Those present in the courtroom weren’t so surprised after they witnessed a strange set of events.
After all the evidence was heard the jury listened to a summing up by the prosecution, the defence and finally hear legal guidance from the judge. Lady Stacey cut her day short at around 3.30pm and told the jury they would hear her final words the following day at 10am. Many there felt her words the following day must take more than half an hour to deliver or there would be no need to send the jury home early that afternoon.
The following day the jury heard details of the verdicts open to them and one last piece of new advise, the judge would accept a majority decision. They were sent to make their decision after only 15 minutes of words.
Many wondered why this information was given and why the overnight delay in giving it? Normally a unanimous decision is preferred by a judge but they may accept a split majority decision if after time a jury struggle to reach an agreement. Many feel 90 minutes, although ironic in a case involving a football club, wasn’t enough time to attempt to gain a unanimous verdict and couldn’t figure out why this information was almost delivered alone in the 15 minute session held back from a court that was sent home 30 minutes early the evening before.