Club owner and current Tory donor Richard Caring broke his silence on Tuesday about the £2.25m he collected in cash from HSBC’s scandal-hit Swiss bank.
But he left its purpose still shrouded in mystery.
Speaking to the Times newspaper, Caring said his “business associates did not want the bank to know details of the deal. HSBC needed to know only what the business was.”
A memo in the leaked files records the explanation Caring gave for the withdrawal at the time. It reads: “Richard explained that he wished to establish a new account with a separate institution in Geneva with a deposit of the equivalent of GBP 2.25 million and he did not feel it appropriate for either bank to be aware of the relationship with the other. As we know, RC goes to great lengths in order to maintain discretion.
“He will be arranging to transfer GBP 2.5 million from the account of Mrs Tina Green in Monaco. As we know, until now he has hesitated from holding the vast majority of his cash assets in his own name, preferring to accept the offer of Mrs Green that she holds them in Trust on his behalf.”
Caring’s Times interview suggests a business deal with unnamed associates lay behind his admittedly “unusual” cash transaction. According to the bank files, a business deal he was engaged in at the time was the purchase of the Belgo and Strada restaurant chains from serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson.
There is no suggestion Johnson himself was involved in the cash deal. He confirmed to the Guardian that the restaurant purchase arrangements were unconnected. “I can emphatically guarantee you it wasn’t [connected],” he said.
The Belgo/Strada deal was financed with £23.5m put up by Caring in the form of an offshore loan. The bank specified five days previously: “[T]he £23.5m we receive from Tina Green’s account in Monaco (held for RC in trust) … in preparation for the purchase this weekend of the Belgo/Strada Group.”
Tina Green is the Monaco-based wife of Topshop billionaire Philip Green, Caring’s close friend and business associate. According to Caring’s Times interview, he “denied that any of his assets were in accounts controlled by Tina Green”.
According to regulatory announcements, the Tina Green-backed purchase was concluded on the same day, 5 September 2005, that Caring asked HSBC to supply the £2.25m cash in Swiss francs in Switzerland.
Caring’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment on his statement to the Times. But when contacted previously, his lawyer had said it was a private matter and involved no impropriety.
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