Found this on the Chesterfield forum of all places, a real interesting read albeit still painful..
The club who paid their players one amount and told the taxman it was less
Even now, almost two decades on from Boston United being caught bang to rights in a tax fraud that would eventually see the club’s manager and their chairman narrowly avoid jail, the leniency of the punishment handed down by the FA still rankles with the man who led the governing body’s investigation.
“Boston should not have been promoted to the Football League,” says Graham Bean, former head of the FA’s compliance unit. “They had cheated to get promotion.
“I was very close to resigning from the FA because I was so pissed off with the penalty given. It didn’t reflect what had happened.”
Dagenham & Redbridge, the club Boston pipped to the 2001-02 Conference title on goal difference, share Bean’s frustration.
Had the four-point deduction subsequently meted out to Boston that summer, along with a £100,000 fine for lodging false contracts for six players, been applied to the season which had just finished and not to the following 2002-03 campaign, Dagenham would have gone up to League Two as champions instead.
In time, Boston’s manager Steve Evans and chairman Pat Malkinson would be banned from football for lengthy spells. The pair were also handed suspended prison sentences after pleading guilty to cheating the Inland Revenue out of £245,188 by failing to pay tax and national insurance contributions on the wages of players.
This, though, has done little to assuage the injustice felt by Dagenham, who would have to wait another five years to be promoted from non-League.
“I still can’t figure out how they came to that decision all these years on,” says Steve Thompson, the Essex club’s current managing director who was finance secretary at the time. “The football and criminal punishments didn’t fit the crime.”
Even in Boston, the saga is one that elicits only sadness. “A horrible time,” says club president John Blackwell, who was general manager at the time. “It ripped the club and the town to pieces.”
Bean spent nearly two decades as a policeman in South Yorkshire, the vast majority as a detective. Dealing with violent gangs became a familiar part of his working week and he secured dozens of convictions, several on the back of dawn raids designed to catch suspects unawares.
By 2002, Bean had been head of the FA’s compliance unit for three years but those instincts honed in his old job remained sharp.
Which is how, as the investigation into newly crowned Conference champions Boston United went public one midweek morning in May, several doors across England were being knocked on at the same time Bean was striding into the offices at the club’s York Street ground.
“We went out to drop shit on people’s toes,” he says. “We wanted to hit them very much like a dawn raid. I pulled together six or seven ex-detectives that I had worked with to do the job with me.
“I sent them to knock on players’ doors all over the country, right at the moment I was walking into Boston United for the first time. So, no one could have conversations and warn anyone.”
A routine FA inspection of the club’s accounts early in 2002 was behind the synchronised operation. Unexplained discrepancies had been uncovered between the salaries declared on players’ contracts and payments actually being made by the club.
“The FA had opened up a new department called the Financial Advisory Unit,” Bean tells The Athletic. “They would go into clubs and if they had any concerns about a club, they would flag it up to me.
“They did a routine, run-of-the-mill check on Boston United. Jamie McGraw, the FA’s finance expert, came back and said, ‘Graham, there is something just not right here’. Some of the contracts just didn’t make sense to him.”
Boston and Dagenham had been locked in a two-way scrap for promotion to the Football League. It was a battle destined to go all the way to the final day of the season, when a 2-0 win away at already-relegated Hayes was enough to send the Lincolnshire club up on goal difference after both finished on 84 points.
As a thrilling and increasingly bitter race was being played out — Evans (below) and Garry Hill, his Dagenham counterpart, never got on due to being “too abrasive and too similar but both winners”, according to the Essex club’s former defender Ashley Vickers — the FA investigation into Boston’s finances was deliberately kept under wraps. “We had talked it through at the FA,” says Bean. “We knew if we’d gone in and messed up promotion for them, they might have had a claim against us. What it (delaying) did mean was we had everything ready for when the season finished.”
The FA had forensically examined the club’s accounts before entering Boston’s home 24 days after that promotion-clinching triumph. But what Bean and McGraw found shocked even the well-briefed pair.
Far from there being the occasional irregular payment, as had been suspected, it soon became clear a systematic deception involving player contracts had been taking place.
Mike Marsh, the former Liverpool and West Ham United midfielder, was one of six players whose contract lodged with the FA detailed totally different figures to what he was being paid. His purported £100 per week, as outlined in the contract in the FA’s possession, was 10 times that amount.
Similar discrepancies were discovered over striker Ken Charlery, who was being paid £620 per week, plus bonuses, despite his contract stating a weekly wage of £120. Jim Dick, a midfielder, was supposed to have been paid £250 per week but, in reality, had been receiving £2,400 a month.
Other players whose contracts were found to be markedly different from what they had been paid were Paul Bastock, Paul Wilson and Simon Weatherstone.
Malkinson and Blackwell were both at York Street when the FA swooped. Bean adds: “It was pretty obvious from the start that John Blackwell didn’t have a clue about any skulduggery going on. He was gobsmacked by what we had to say.
“We were saying to him, ‘According to this, you are paying this player that amount and yet his contract says he only earns £150’. John was saying, ‘No, that’s right, he is earning £150′. That wasn’t the case, that player was getting a lot more.
“Every player gets three contracts to sign: one for him to keep, one for the FA and one for the club. You do it in triplicate so that if a dispute ever arises with a contract, the one lodged with the FA is the one worked from by, say, a disciplinary panel.
“As we go further into the chat, we realised John would be shown a contract with £1,000 per week on it that he had never, ever seen. Even though he had signed it. He would get his copy out and it would have £100 a week on it. We couldn’t work out what had happened. But then John explained to us.
“What happens at that level is the manager does a lot of the signings — might be at the ground, might be at a motorway cafe.
“They will say, ‘We will pay you £150 a week. Fill this form in and sign it, then it is all done’. What happened at Boston is Evans was filling in four contracts, three of which were as they should be and a fourth one given to the player with what he was actually being paid.”
The subsequent court case that ended with Malkinson and Evans being given suspended sentences laid bare the details of the fraud.
The jury at London’s Southwark Crown Court was told that Boston had operated a shadowy system of parallel contracts and secret payments that enabled them to recruit players they would not have been able to afford had the correct tax and national insurance been paid. Wages and bonuses paid to players would be disguised as expenses, which are not taxable.
Charlery, who ironically moved between the two title rivals during that 2001-02 season, told the 2006 trial he was given one contract that promised him £620 per week plus a £16,000 signing-on fee. Neither the FA nor the taxman had been shown this contract.
“There was a turning point in our inquiry,” says Bean. “We arranged to interview Ken Charlery at the FA and asked him to bring his contract. We had the one saying he was paid £120 a week.
“At first, what we thought had been happening was the players were getting an off-the-books payment in cash to make up the differences we were seeing. But what Charlery did was bring the contract he had signed, along with Evans and the chairman. It had him down on what he was actually being paid. He had one contract and the FA one was totally different.
“In effect, that proved to us that the club were doing an additional, extra contract for the player that was false. When we interviewed Charlery, he was oblivious. As far as he was aware, he got £600-odd quid and that was it, everything above board.
“I knew the contract with Charlery was so vital to the enquiry I took it home with me. I kept it in my home office because I didn’t want to risk it going missing. That was the best piece of evidence in the whole case.
“After that, we very quickly established what was happening. They were doing all sorts of things. Scouting payments, travel expenses, all sorts. Evans was in cahoots with Pat Malkinson, who was running a cash business next door with a bingo hall. It meant any wages could be made up with cash.”
Things moved at pace following that initial visit to York Street on May 23. Evans was among those interviewed early on by Bean. Then came a flight to Glasgow and a meeting with Dick which provided Bean with one of the inquiry’s more bizarre episodes.
“I flew up on the Wednesday,” he says. “The plane lands and I put my phone on. There was a message from Dick, saying, ‘When you come and see me, there is a man sat with me — whatever you do, don’t let him in the interview room with us’.
“I could tell he was calling from the toilets, just from the echo. He was pleading with me not to let this guy in. I’m thinking, ‘What the ****** is going on?’
“When I meet Dick, he is sitting there with this Honey Monster — an absolutely massive bloke. I asked Jim to come with me but this bloke says he is coming, too. I told him in no uncertain terms he wasn’t, but this fella said he was.
“I stood my ground, despite feeling a bit nervous. I said, ‘Look, if this is how it is going to be, I am getting back on that plane and I will arrange to meet Jim another time when you aren’t there’.
“That did the trick and he waited outside. Once on his own, Jim told me the whole shooting match.”
Dick, it turned out, had been contacted via phone the previous day by Evans and Malkinson, and offered £8,000. An intermediary later turned up at Dick’s home with an envelope full of cash.
The Scot, a regular for Boston in the 2000-01 season but by now back playing north of the border, explained to Bean that Evans had driven from his home to hand the money to a contact midway between Lincolnshire and Scotland. This intermediary had then driven back to Dick, who was told he would be accompanied to the following day’s meeting with Bean.
Malkinson later admitted authorising the £8,000 payment but maintained it was part of Dick’s severance deal following his release. Evans confirmed his own involvement later.
On the investigation that led to a combined 16 charges against Boston, the club’s manager and chairman, Bean recalls: “We were collating everything and had loads. Then we came to interviewing Evans. It was a classic ‘Gotcha’ interview.
“I get on pretty well with Steve now but at that time we were sworn enemies. He started all amicable and giving plausible explanations — or what he thought was plausible. As an ex-detective, I am just listening to what he had to say and throwing the odd question in for clarification, giving him the impression I believe what he is saying.
“Only then, once he had answered all the questions I knew he was lying to, I started to get the papers out and putting them on the table. I was saying things like, ‘Well, this is what you told me but here this document says different’.
“I kept moving on to different documents, all of which contradicted what he had told me. He ends up throwing a wobbly and walking out. The next meeting we had was in the presence of an accountant. By that time, the game was up. It had become clear that the two protagonists were Malkinson and Evans — all done between them with no knowledge of anyone else at the club.
“We dished all these charges out, including a really strong one against Evans for obstructing an FA enquiry with the payment to Dick at his home.”
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Fascinating read. I wasn't even born let alone a supporter at the time so have only heard bits and pieces from various sources about what actually went on. Reading that, the true extent of the crime became clear and it completely blew my mind as it was far, far worse than I'd expected. Can't believe Boston were allowed to be promoted to the FL after their fraudulent, corrupt actions.
''Dagenham & Redbridge look a very different side to about ten or fifteen minutes ago when they were on the back foot, and here's Benson...BRILLIANT!''