IT began with a purported billionaire in the shape of 'financial whizzkid from Motherwell' Craig Whyte with wealth "off the radar" moving to buy Rangers for just £1.

It ended with financial meltdown, liquidation, a humiliating relegation to the bottom rung of the Scottish Football League, malicious prosecutions and abuse of state power over a failed club fraud investigation that could cost the taxpayer over £120m.

According to liquidators BDO, the debts claimed for when Rangers became insolvent ten years today amounted to £168.8m.

But now a court fight is on the cards over the extent of the debt that the club actually owed with a final figure expected to go to just under £100m.

The club’s unsecured creditors included more than 6000 fans who bought £7.7m worth of debenture seats at Ibrox – only to be robbed of their investments when the club was plunged into administration. So far they have have managed to get back £108,134 between them.

More than £7m was owed to “trade creditors” – ranging from giants such as Coca-Cola to a picture framer in Bearsden. So far they have managed to reclaim no more than £379,351.

The creditors also include a lady called Susan Thomson who ran a face-painting business who was owed £40 when the club went bust.

READ MORE: Revealed: The secret taxman gameplan to liquidate Rangers

Now it is understood new court action is on the cards as both the club liquidators BDO and the Rangers oldco's biggest debtor HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have been at deadlock over a 'blunder' which could see the taxman's overall claim against Rangers oldco for £94.4m cut in half.


The route to liquidation began when David Murray, the owner of Rangers, whose own group of companies was in financial difficulty, was under pressure to sell. Lloyds Banking Group were unhappy with the club's £18 million debt, wanted out of football and were concerned about a tax case with a potential bill which could bankrupt the club.

After a series of failed bids for the club, Mr Whyte arrived with a promise of investment, and the removal of the debt.

But behind Mr Whyte's spin, there was a series of failed business dealings, concerns not missed by the club's Independent Board Committee (IBC) which assessed bids on behalf of shareholders.

At the age of 40, the man who was once touted as "the next Richard Branson" had either run or been a key director of a string of companies that had either gone out of business or under threat of being dissolved, owing millions of pounds.

The IBC, featuring former chairman Alistair Johnston, Martin Bain, John Greig, John McClelland and Donald McIntyre, had sufficient worries about Mr Whyte's bid to issue a statement demanding that the new owners specify their financial commitment to the club.

Despite the allegations and court cases, the then 29-year-old insisted at his Monte Carlo home in May, 2000 that he was debt-free. "I don't owe anyone any money - least of all the taxman".

The IBC's concerns were justified as after just nine months at the helm Mr Whyte took the Rangers business under.

Some £74m of the purported debts that were left came from the taxman and related to the club's use of Employment Benefit Trusts from 2001 to 2010 to pay players and staff. That was seen as the legal timebomb that led to the downfall of one of Scotland's oldest and most famous football clubs.

In the scheme around 80 players, staff and officials had money paid into sub-trusts by the Murray Group, owned by Mr Murray.

It allowed the Ibrox club to sign players who they would have otherwise found difficult to afford.

The taxman said the scheme was tax avoidance and hit Rangers with a bill to pay back the money while the club was under the ownership of Mr Murray.


Known as the Big Tax Case, it was seen as the catalyst for the disastrous eventual sale of the club to Mr Whyte.

HMRC has insisted it did not make any mistakes over what it was owed that led to the club's insolvency.

But according to BDO, nearly £30m has already been 'successfully challenged' - £20m of which is EBT tax penalties cut from the original sum claimed when the club business now known as RFC 2012 went into insolvency.

It has further emerged that the tax trigger which caused the taxman to lodge its petition to put the Mr Whyte-owned club into administration in the first place was in question.

READ MORE: Rangers liquidators sue former administrators in £28.9 million claim

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh the taxman tried to appoint its own administrator over alleged non-payment of £9m in PAYE, VAT and national insurance - but Mr Whyte filed his own legal papers to appoint administrators, insisting the club would "come out stronger" and "always be here".

Paul Clark and David Whitehouse from Duff and Phelps, who were preferred by Mr Whyte were given the nod by the court to take over the day-to-day running of Rangers while addressing its debt problems.

Under liquidation, that £9m taxman claim grew to £15.43m - only to be cut by £5.2m after a further challenge by BDO.

HMRC is under pressure over its actions as their overall £94.4m claim could be cut to just over £40m if the liquidator succeeds in a fight to contest the way the taxman calculated what the club owed over its controversial use EBTs.

Craig Whyte interview over the club being taken into administration. "If we can get rid of the Big Tax Case there is definitely a bright future."

While the current taxman bill currently stands at £64.5m, BDO says some £51m remains in dispute - £48.8m relating to the use of EBTs.

The Herald understands that the challenged EBT matter could well end up before a judge at the first tier tax tribunal.

BDO are challenging HMRC’s calculation which included interest, saying it was wrongly subject to what is called “grossing up” in terms of working out tax.

This sees the amounts paid to players as net pay. An HMRC calculation would add the higher rate of tax 40 per cent plus national insurance to the payment to work out the total owed.

Executives in charge of Rangers before it was sold by Sir David Murray believe that the size of the potential EBT debt had put off potential buyers of the club – paving the way for a sale for £1 to Mr Whyte in May 2011 and the financial collapse nine months later.

At the time, executives feared a “nuclear missile” £50m bill if they were landed with the EBT bill and were so worried they took advice.

Fans groups have been critical of HMRC's involvement in the club's downfall.

Chanting fans greet Ally McCoist as Rangers went into administration ten years today.

HMRC, oldco Rangers' largest creditor effectively blocked a CVA proposal which would have allowed the club to trade its way out of administration. Preventing the business from being plunged into liquidation, would have kept the club within lucrative UEFA competitions.

A CVA enables companies to reach an agreement with creditors about how debts could be repaid and provides for partial or full repayment, depending on what the company can reasonably afford to pay. But the Rangers CVA proposal offered less than 10p in the pound to creditors.

In May evidence provided by Mike Baird, who had been the head of the finance professionals unit in HMRC's specialist investigations said that taxman wanted liquidation so that there could be an investigation into the Rangers business and how HMRC's debt had built up.

He said there was concern over the scale of what he called non-compliance [over tax] across the club and concerns over the EBT arrangements.

Drew Roberton, who was the Rangers Supporters Association general secretary at the time of the club's financial implosion said: "I believe the HMRC pursuit was an anti-Rangers agenda. A debt is not a debt until the court finds in favour of whoever says you owe them money. So Rangers didn't owe anyone anything until such time that it went to court and it took a few goes in court before they finally got their way.

"At the time I didn't believe that the figures were anything like what they bandied around. And to be honest with you any reasonable person if they had taken the time to think about it and look into it properly, they would realise it was rubbish."

In 2016, four seasons after liquidation led to demotion to the lowest run of Scottish league football, Rangers returned to the top flight and in March, last year under manager Steven Gerrard, were crowned Scottish Premiership champions.

Mr Roberton said: "It has been a long haul to get to where we are now.

"I think everybody was hoping that the situation we are in now would have come sooner rather than later.

"It is amazing to look back now and see how far we have come since then. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster to say the least. "At the time there was too much focus on off the field incidents than on the field. I always thought that once things were right behind the scenes, or at least heading in the right direction, things would go well on the field.

"But I don't think anyone could have foreseen what happened back then. Something like that would never have entered your head.

"Everybody is different. There are some who will remember it vividly, the pain, if you want to describe it like that, will never go away for them. There will be some who feel that they have to move on and that there was nothing they could do about it and look forward."