I use the internet and more specifically, search engines quite a lot for researching things I write on TSS, and whilst trying to find anything at all on Forward Sports Fund, I came across a post on a site called Commercial Law International.

The site is essentially a blog written by four people whose background is in law. The writer of the article I’m going to refer to – Charles Wanguhu – has a Masters in Law from the university of Westminister and currently works for AfriCOG which is (and I quote from their website)

The Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) is an independent, non-profit making organisation with a mandate to provide cutting edge research on governance and public ethics issues and, monitor governance fundamentals in both the government and the private sector. AfriCOG’s governance and anti-corruption reform initiative are aimed at addressing the structural causes of Kenya’s governance crisis by a knowledgeable citizenry.

What interested me in his post is that the writer has far more knowledge of the ins and outs of international law than I do personally. We’ve all made our thoughts well known about the handling of Leeds United’s ownership, but few of us really have an in-depth understanding of how it’s been allowed to remain so mysterious.

His post starts with the following;

In the current financial crisis the role of offshore havens have been placed in the spotlight and quite rightly so. The lack of transparency in their dealings has meant that these centres have not only been used for tax evasion, money laundering, but also as bases for special purpose entities. The role of British offshore havens has of late been highlighted with regards to the ownership of football clubs.

The Riddle of Leeds Football Club ownership has played out quite interestingly in the Royal Court of Jersey.  In January this year the Leeds Chairman Ken Bates told the court that he jointly owned the club’s holding company, Forward Sports Fund. However in an affidavit sworn for the same court in May, Bates states that he did not own any shares in Forward and that the previous statement was “incorrect” and “an error” on his part.

So as you’ve just read, he cuts straight to the chase highlighting the part that brought Forward Sports Fund’s ownership into disrepute to start with – the fact Bates lied to a court.

For me, the lack of transparency and willingness to lie with such ease to anyone from supporters, to the Football League to an actual court leaves me in no doubt that he’s hiding something. Lying to a court is a criminal offence afterall and not something you’d do unless desperate.

Although Charles never directly accuses Bates or FSF of money laundering, the lack of transparency is consistant with those that have used companies for such a purpose. Even if it’s not that, there’s something clearly awry with Leeds United’s ownership and the continued secrecy will only serve to fuel speculation.

An interesting point to note is that Forward Sports Fund is a Cayman Islands-registered outfit, with its administrators in the very transparent capital of Switzerland. Château Fiduciaire the administrators/trustees on being pushed to reveal the beneficial owners of Forward indicated that;

“Understandably, it is not the policy of this company, a fully regulated Swiss fiduciaire, to release information on ultimate ownership without an appropriate court order, valid in Switzerland.”

The ownership of Leeds United has been routed via a network of offshore companies ever since Ken Bates arrived at Elland Road club in 2005. Bates in his affidavit states that:

“Neither I, Mark Taylor or Shaun Harvey are able to confirm who the ultimate beneficial owners of Forward are.”

The above not only makes a mockery of the Football associations “fit and proper test” of Club owners but just goes to show the lack of transparency in football administration.

There’s been such an effort made to keep the clubs ownership secret when it would be so much easier to simply reveal who the true beneficators are, that no one, no matter how naive could possibly believe there isn’t something suspicious about all this.

Whether it’s the men that ultimately own the football club that couldn’t possibly pass the ‘fit and proper’ test for one reason or another, or whether it’s that money is being laundered through it or it’s simply a case of tax evasion, I fail to see how this can continue if the Football League wish to get a stranglehold on club ownership issues.

A lot has been said about the ownership issues at Leeds United, but the fact that lawyers are starting to take an interest suggests they have a reason to. The Football League have said very little about whether or not they’ll continue to investigate Leeds, but with such attention being put on them, I can’t see them doing otherwise.

Unless FSF and Bates cut their ties quickly and sell the club to someone else, the truth is inevitably going to come out eventually. What that truth is, and whether there’ll be any consequences for Leeds United FC continues to worry me. I think we’ve been through enough in the last decade and deserve a transparent regime with the clubs best interests at heart. FSF clearly isn’t that.

Charles Wanguhu’s full post can be read here: Will the real Leeds United owners please stand up?

18 Responses

  1. Twohandsgaz

    I long for the day this sorted out, i have a very bad feeling that any failed “fit and proper person” test will end up costing us points….again. I was never very happy with Cuddly ken as i have always seen him as a bit of wrong un, (in my opinion) knowing how litigious KB is thought i had better add that….Either tell us who owns the club or sell it, makes some cash and fluff off over the horizon. I dont expect the owners of any privately owned company t o tell me all the ins and outs of their financial dealings. I do however expect to know who the hell im dealing with at the very least. The sooner this dark and nasty period of our recent history is resolved the better. MOT.

  2. Paul South Wales

    This site used to be interesting and based on the team, now it just seems to be turning into Clarkeonenil. Ken Bates love him or hate him has dragged us back on track. We could have easily lost our “going concern” status, but we’re still going strong. We can speculate all we like about who owns the club, but as long as we carry on our ascent back to the promised land, do we really care?

    • TSS

      In fairness Paul, all my posts are about Leeds United and the things that affect them. Bates is one of those things, so is obviously going to be discussed.

      I’ve never been a huge fan of Bates, and have never made any secrets of it. I may have previously overlooked a lot of his failings, but after the Thorp Arch catastrophe there’s a lot of questions that need answering.

      The site always has and always will focus mainly on the team, but it’s impossible to ignore Bates’ failings. There’s too much money slid through this club, too many failed promises and we’ve lost our training ground despite the fact Bates plans to build an hotel on the side of the stadium. Where’s the money for that coming from?

      The secrecy surrounding our ownership worries me. If Bates is willing to lie to a court to keep it covered up, there’s something clearly not right. I’m simply worried about what the consequences of that will be – as I’m sure many others are too.

  3. Sad Leeds Fan

    Has anyone made any enquiries as to whether the Jersey court is intending to charge him with perjury, or even taking sweets from the mouths of babes?

  4. Fingers

    There is a lot of bandwagon jumping going on about the offshore financial environment, mainly eminating from misinformation from US polititions. The facts are that many hedge funds are based in Cayman, they are all regulated very tightly and are all completely legal. The Forward Sports Fund is not a regualted entity in the Cayman Islands, could possibly be in the BVI, but because it is an offshore entity does not mean it is illegal. It is most likely a collective of investors, KB friends in Monaco possibly, who have invested in LUFC through this offshore structure. Everyone should realise that the main centres of money laundering in the world today are USA and UK!!!!

  5. Matt bb

    These things should be discussed. We all love leeds united and the present situation puts us at risk. Ken bates is a businessman, he doesnt love our club, it is in his interests to keep it going. So quite rightly the football league want some certainty for players and fans as to what the real set up is behind leeds. Imagine if in fact our club was set up based on fictional investors? It could fall over almost instantly, if you love leeds united, even if it costs us points you should fall in with what the football league are saying. Love is not easy.

  6. Andrew Preston

    I SERIOUSLY hope Leeds ‘fans’ dont instigate some kind of revolution that will bring down the current setup and destroy all the good work e are seeing on he pitch…which ould appear to finally be seeing us back on the ladder and climbing with confidence (and with admirers).

    Please guys, dont risk unsettling the players…we cannot afford it.

    If ken Bates walked tomorrow where would that leave the club?

  7. Norwegian Leeds Fan

    Great post! Have always found you’re articles interesting, this one included. No doubt we need to know who owns the club. It’s a fair question to ask, and if KB ever wants to win us over, he should be OUR director of the club, no matter who owns the clubs shares. I think it is time KB realises this and starts communicating with us. After all, who pays his salary if no one shows up at ER or buys the LUFC gear? That put aside, I think I have a possible explanation for why TA wasn’t bought back. I think we actually do have the funding. I think this was a choice made by the club, and who knows. It might be a good choice in the future? What if the money we have is set aside for a hotel, and the new “KB Complex” at the side of ER. That just might be a reasonable investment for the club, as it will give us a proper and steady flowing income for who knows how many years to come… So what if TA costs us 11 m £ or so to buy back, if such a business complex, owned by the club, gives us a yearly profit of 3-6 m £ or whatever? This surely would rectify our ability to borrow from the banks again, and for me is a much sounder investment. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m just playing with some thoughts here. I’ve never been a KB fan, but as a business man myself, such an idea actually makes sense. I would love to see TA back at in our hands again, but if you look at the profit side of running a club, wouldn’t you want to invest the little cash you’ve scraped together in a long term, high return facility after the years of struggle we’ve had? I know I would have made that choice. Ultimately the goal must be to get TA back, but short-term it must be about financially securing the club long-term. Re-purchasing TA should come second if there is a higher profit to be made elsewhere. We can not afford to invest whatever little cash we have poorly, and thinking strictly as a business man, they should go where the return is highest not only short term, but also long term. Now, when that is said, I actually hope this is what KB is pondering. If it is and he pulls it through, he gains my respect. If it is not and he’s only wanking around as a silly old man, then he can pack his s…t and leave. Now.

  8. reasonstubbycheerful

    Would you build a garage on your next doors property to aid the value of their house ? No,, then why would you build a big hotel and the add ons at ER? Given that the benefits will go to the owners and, the ultimate owners cant have given permission for the build to be sanctioned because no one knows who they are. Unless of course Bates is talking to himself, perhaps???

    • Norwegian Leeds Fan

      That just might be it. We’ve suspected Bates to run all of this for a long time just as he sees fit, so until we know for a fact who the real owners of LUFC is, there is no reason not to believe Bates has control of the stadium as well.


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