NEWCASTLE and West Ham football clubs have both been raided by officers over alleged transfer dealings.
A number of men were apprehended for suspected tax and national insurance fraud, with Toon managing director Lee Charnley understood to be one of them.
St James’ Park and the London Stadium were the two locations targeted, with officers up at 4am to begin the operation.
HM Revenue and Customs confirmed almost 200 officials were deployed across both England and France as the operation crossed the Channel.
A statement from HMRC read: “HMRC has arrested several men working within the professional football industry for a suspected Income Tax and National Insurance fraud.
“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.
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“As this is an ongoing investigation HMRC is unable to provide any further detail at this time.”
Newcastle are yet to comment on the incident.
Officers remain at the London Stadium.
A statement from West Ham read: “The club is cooperating fully with HMRC to assist their enquiries. No further comment will be made at this time.”
Charnley, 39, was appointed as Newcastle managing director in April 2014.
Both clubs could face a points deduction if found guilty of serious tax frauds.
WHO IS LEE CHARNLEY?
Lee Charnley is Mike Ashley’s right-hand man at Newcastle.
As the club’s managing director, he has long been known to be the man to execute owner Ashley’s will at St James’ Park.
That includes hiring and firing managers as well as re-shuffling the boardroom.
But Charnley largely shuns the limelight, choosing to keep a low profile at the club.
The 39-year-old is in charge of transfers at St James’ Park and has say over whether managers get hired or fired.
Charnley worked his way up at the club, during the era of Freddie Shepherd and Sir John hall, he was understudy to chief operating officer Russell Cushing.
He got his break in the current role when Joe Kinnear was appointed as director of football and despite the former Wimbledon manager’s blundering and ill-fated spell, Charnley managed to hold his head.
But any punishment is likely to be years down the line.
The Magpies secured promotion to the Premier League with a 4-1 win over Preston on Monday night.
West Ham, meanwhile, are hovering just seven points above the drop zone.
HMRC confirmed that no police were involved in the operation in England.