Glasgow & West Scotland

Former colleague 'annoyed' by Craig Whyte's Rangers bid

Craig Whyte arriving at High court in Glasgow Image copyright PA
Image caption Craig Whyte is standing trial at the High Court in Glasgow

A former colleague of Craig Whyte was "annoyed" after discovering £1m had left the company to apparently help fund his Rangers takeover, a court has heard.

David Gillespie said he found investment firm Merchant Turnaround had "less funds than expected" in 2011.

Mr Whyte, 46, is on trial at the High Court in Glasgow for acquiring Rangers by fraud, and for a second charge under the Companies Act.

He denies both charges.

The court heard that Mr Gillespie, 68, was director of Merchant Turnaround and Mr Whyte was company secretary.

The retired stockbroker said he had never given "authority" for the money to be used in any Rangers buy-out.

'Analysis of investments'

Instead, he had earlier warned Mr Whyte that he had not wanted any involvement in a football club.

The jury has heard how Mr Whyte struck a £1 deal to purchase Sir David Murray's controlling stake at Ibrox in May 2011.

Around that time, another director asked for an "analysis" of investments.

Mr Gillespie said: "We discovered that there were less funds than expected."

It was found £1m had been sent to law firm Collyer Bristow, which was involved in Mr Whyte's takeover.

Mr Gillespie said, up to that point, he had been unaware of the money transfer.

Image caption The Ibrox club was sold for £1 in May 2011

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC asked what his reaction was.

The witness said he was "annoyed".

"I obviously referred to Mr Whyte what was going down really," he added.

"He said that he had put it across as a prelude to being involved in the Rangers acquisition that he was trying to pursue or had concluded."

Mr Gillespie told how months earlier he had met Mr Whyte in Glasgow as speculation mounted about his Rangers bid.

He said: "We discussed that and I made it clear that I did not want to get involved with a football club.

"I just would not want to stretch to something as high profile as that."

Mr Gillespie added he had not granted permission for the cash to be transferred although he "could not speak" for another director Philip Betts.

'He knew my view'

The jury heard Mr Betts was a key associate in the takeover.

Mr Prentice asked the witness had he given "authority" for money to be used in any "proposed acquisition".

Mr Gillespie: "No. As I said previously, I had discussed it with Mr Whyte and he knew my view."

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 Judge Lady Stacey, continues.

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