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UK tax authorities have arrested figures in the British football industry over suspected income tax and national insurance fraud, launching major raids on the offices of leading football clubs.

Newcastle United and West Ham United said they are among those targeted by HM Revenue & Customs on Tuesday. Around 180 officers have been involved in raids in Britain and France and have made “several arrests”, according to HMRC.

One senior figure at Newcastle United said managing director Lee Charnley was arrested by HM Revenue & Customs officers this morning. The person added the arrests related to payments made to agents in transfer dealings, and that computers and business records had been seized by officers.

Mr Charnley has been a director at the club since 2008. He was appointed by the club’s owner, retail magnate Mike Ashley, as managing director in 2014. Since then, he played a key role in appointing Rafa Benitez, the club’s current manager who has guided to promotion back to the Premier League next season.

Mr Charnley is also one of the key figures involved with the team’s player transfer strategy.

West Ham United also had premises in London raided this morning, with the club saying that that it “is cooperating fully with HMRC to assist their enquiries.” One senior figure at West Ham denied that any officials at the club had been arrested.

HMRC said in a statement that it “has arrested several men working within the professional football industry for a suspected Income Tax and National Insurance fraud, adding:

180 HMRC officers have been deployed across the UK and France today. 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. As this is an ongoing investigation HMRC is unable to provide any further detail at this time.

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