Rangers news

Lawyer accused of Whyte 'conspiracy'

April 24, 2012

A lawyer participated in a "conspiracy" with Craig Whyte before doing "a runner", administrators alleged at the High Court on Tuesday.

Gary Withey offered advice when Mr Whyte was trying to acquire a majority share in Rangers in 2011, said a lawyer representing Duff and Phelps.

And it became clear that "something was seriously wrong" after Mr Withey resigned from London solicitors firm Collyer Bristow earlier this year, Mark Phillips QC, told Mr Justice Arnold.

Administrators are suing Collyer Bristow for around £25 million damages on Rangers' behalf. They allege "conspiracy" and negligence.

Collyer Bristow has yet to outline any detailed defence to the allegations.

Mr Phillips told the court at Tuesday's pre-trial hearing that there was "no evidence to implicate anybody else" but Mr Withey.

Mr Phillips outlined a "peculiar situation" in a written statement which explained administrators' cash claims and was given to the judge at the hearing.

He said Mr Whyte was seeking to acquire a majority share in Rangers in the name of his company, The Rangers FC Group, in early 2011.

Collyer Bristow had acted as company's solicitors and Mr Withey was the member of Collyer Bristow who dealt with the company's involvement in the takeover, said Mr Phillips.

Mr Whyte had said his company would pay more than £9 million, including £5 million to buy players, and the money would be held by Collyer Bristow for Rangers' "benefit".

But Mr Phillips said Mr Whyte's "representations" were "false".

"The Rangers FC Group had no ability to provide the necessary funds and no intention of providing them," said Mr Phillips, in the written statement. "Mr Withey ... was privy to Mr Whyte's deception and participated in the conspiracy."

He also outlined how in April 2011 Collyer Bristow received more than £24million from Ticketus, a firm which buys tickets in advance for events, in anticipation of proposed sale of Rangers' season tickets.

Mr Phillips said Collyer Bristow used "much" of the £24 million to "make numerous payments on behalf of Mr Whyte and his company".

He said administrators were appointed in February 2012. A day after the appointment administrators' lawyers contacted Mr Withey to ask for confirmation about an amount of money held by Collyer Bristow on "trust" for Rangers.

Mr Withey said initially said Collyer Bristow was not holding any money, then "changed his story" and said the firm was holding £260,000. A week later another member of staff told administrators that the firm was "in fact holding" £3.9 million.

"The situation then became even more peculiar," said Mr Phillips, in the written statement. "To use a colloquial expression, Mr Withey 'did a runner'."

Mr Phillips said Mr Withey had resigned in March and he added: "It was clear something was seriously wrong."