The British tax authorities have arrested “several men working within professional football” after co-ordinated raids of premises in the north east and south east of England on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) took part in the raids, seizing computers, mobile phones and paperwork, with the French authorities making similar raids and arrests at locations in France.
Although the club’s haven’t been named in the statement, widespread reports suggest the clubs in question are Newcastle United and West Ham United.
The Daily Mail’s North-East correspondent Craig Hope says Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley is among the men charged.
BREAKING: NUFC managing director Lee Charnley arrested after HMRC investigation into transfer activity. More to follow @MailSport
— Craig Hope (@CraigHope_DM) April 26, 2017
In a statement, HMRC said: “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. As this is an ongoing investigation HMRC is unable to provide any further detail at this time.”
West Ham’s involvement in the investigation has now been confirmed by the Premier League club.
A spokesperson said: “The club is cooperating fully with HMRC to assist their enquiries. No further comment will be made at this time.”
The Hammers are currently 14th in the table, seven points above the relegation zone, after an eventful first season at the former Olympic stadium.
The 39-year-old Charnley became Newcastle’s managing director three years ago, having quietly risen through the ranks at a club that has experienced considerable upheaval over the years.
Like his boss, club owner Mike Ashley, Charnley rarely, if ever, speaks to the media but has been credited for keeping manager Rafa Benitez at the club despite last season’s relegation from the Premier League.