Aziz Rahman, founder of award-winning business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli, said that the raids on Newcastle United and West Ham United indicate the authorities’ willingness to put resources into tackling tax evasion.
He warned that anyone who is the subject of such an investigation requires proactive and expert legal advice from the start.
Mr Rahman said: “We now know that this was a major operation involving a huge amount of HM Revenue and Customs officers both here and in France. HMRC clearly believes it has discovered some sort of wrongdoing on a very large scale.
“In recent years, tax evasion has been a high priority for the UK government and today’s events would appear to confirm this. This is a large-scale international operation by HMRC, which thinks it is acting on good information.
“The issue now is what this means exactly for those arrested and questioned. They may feel worried, confused and unsure what to do. They will face intensive questioning and, whatever their level of involvement (or non-involvement) in what may have gone on, they require immediate legal advice from the right people.
“That means being represented by solicitors who are experts in white-collar crime and tax offences, who are experienced in dealing with organisations such as HMRC and who are then able to mount a robust, proactive defence of the client using any or all of the evidence that is available.
“The clubs themselves need to make sure that the raids have been carried out in accordance with the law. When raids are carried out, it is often the case that those conducting the raids take as much as they can; as they believe it could be used as evidence.
“The clubs, therefore, have to make sure that those conducting the raid make copies of any digital data that they want to take, thus leaving the originals on site. And if those carrying out the raid do take away hardware, the businesses – in this case, the clubs – must then take the appropriate legal steps to have it returned as soon as possible,
“If such steps are not taken to prevent those conducting the raid exceeding their authority, a raid can be hugely damaging to a business.’’