West Ham have pledged to co-operate with HMRC after their stadium and training ground were raided on Wednesday morning as part of a cross-border probe into an alleged £5m tax fraud.
Newcastle’s premises were also raided and their managing director Lee Charnley understood to have been arrested. Chelsea were asked for information but were not raided and nobody from the club arrested.
HMRC said 180 officers had taken part in the raids in England and France, which resulted in the arrest of several people from the football industry. Documents, computers and mobile phones were also seized.
West Ham confirmed the raid of their offices at the London Stadium and said: “The club is co-operating fully with HMRC to assist their enquiries.”
Newcastle are yet to comment but it is understood that Charnley was arrested as part of raids on their St James’ Park stadium and the club’s training ground.
Premier League leaders Chelsea said: “In connection with its wider investigation, HMRC has requested certain information which the club will provide.”
HMRC's "clear message"
HMRC said the focus of its activity was “a suspected £5m income tax and National Insurance fraud”.
It added: “Investigators have searched a number of premises in the north east and south east of England and arrested the men and also seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones.
“The French authorities are assisting the UK investigation, have made arrests and several locations have been searched in France. This criminal investigation sends a clear message that, whoever you are, if you commit tax fraud you can expect to face the consequences.”
Law firm Pinsent Masons said the raids coincided with increased HMRC activity ahead of the likely introduction of a new criminal offence for businesses that fail to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion.
“The scale of these raids is dramatic, even for HMRC,” said Jason Collins, head of tax at Pinsent Masons. “Dawn raids are partly undertaken to send a clear message of deterrence. HMRC wants tax evaders and facilitators to be scared.”
MPs singled out football as an area that HMRC should crack down on in a January report by the Public Accounts Committee.