Glasgow & West Scotland

Craig Whyte's lawyer initially mistook him for whisky tycoon

Craig Whyte arriving at High court in Glasgow Image copyright PA
Image caption Craig Whyte denies fraudulently trying to acquire Rangers

A lawyer who handled Craig Whyte's takeover of Rangers has told a court that Mr Whyte was presented as a man of "substantial wealth".

Gary Withey, 52, also said he initially thought Mr Whyte was part of the Whyte and Mackay whisky group when he first showed interest in buying Rangers.

The comments came on the 12th day of the trial of Mr Whyte, who is accused of a fraudulent acquisition of Rangers.

He denies a charge of fraud and another under the Companies Act.

Gary Withey, a legal adviser to Craig Whyte, began working on a business plan to take over Rangers in October 2010.

'Complete nightmare'

He said he was first introduced to Mr Whyte through a client and was involved in drawing up legal documents for the takeover deal.

At the time Mr Withey worked for the London-based tax specialist Collyer Bristow, which had been recruited by Craig Whyte.

During questioning by prosecution QC Alex Prentice, Mr Withey was asked if he wanted to take on the case.

He responded: "Yes and no". He added: "Football clubs are always a complete nightmare."

Image caption Gary Withey said football clubs were "a complete nightmare"

Mr Prentice asked the witness if he was initially aware how any bid for Rangers was going to be funded.

Mr Withey replied: "Mr Whyte was portrayed as someone with substantial financial wealth.

"Most people in the City would have said that. One person confused Mr Whyte with Whyte and MacKay.

"At one point, that's who I thought I was dealing with."

'Significant amount'

Mr Withey told the court that Craig Whyte's Liberty Capital had up to £33m available for the Rangers takeover deal.

He also said that up to £27.5m of the club's debt would be paid to Lloyds Banking Group "conditional on completion of appropriate due diligence and completion of all relevant transaction documents".

The court was later told about a joint deposit account that was created for Mr Withey's firm, Collyer Bristow, and agents for the ticketing firm Ticketus.

Image caption Gary Withey told the court that Ticketus handed over a "significant amount of money" for the deal

The bank account was to relate directly to the takeover of Rangers, said Mr Withey.

He also confirmed that the account was to be used for "Ticketus money".

When pressed by Mr Prentice, the witness accepted that Craig Whyte's company would not have claim to the assets of Rangers before completion of the deal.

Mr Withey said: "Only the owner of Rangers Football Club could use the tickets."

Mr Withey said money from Ticketus was being held in the account from April 2011, ahead of the deal to buy the club in May that year.

'Majority stake'

The lawyer also said that £1m from a company called Merchant Turnaround Plc was in the account along with nearly £3m from a firm called Jerome Pensions.

Prosecutors allege Mr Whyte pretended to Sir David Murray, and others, that funds were available to make all required payments to acquire a "controlling and majority stake" in the club.

The Crown alleges Mr Whyte had only £4m available from two sources at the time but took out a £24m loan from Ticketus against three years of future season ticket sales.

The court has heard the sale was eventually made to Mr Whyte for £1 but came with obligations to pay an £18m bank debt, a £2.8m "small tax case" bill, £1.7m for stadium repairs, £5m for players and £5m in working capital.

The second charge under the Companies Act centres on the £18m payment between Mr Whyte's Wavetower company and Rangers to clear a bank debt.

The trial before eight men and seven women continues.

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