Two of Scotland's top football clubs have been named in a new "Football Secrecy League" published on Tuesday by international development agency Christian Aid to highlight the secrecy offered by tax havens.
Rangers were sixth and Hearts 23rd in the table, which was aimed at finding the true owners of each club in the UK.
Rankings were based on an "Opacity Score" reflecting the secrecy offered by the tax haven where each club is based, and the average figure for attendance at home games to indicate the number of club stakeholders - its supporters - routinely denied information about the club.
Manchester United heads the league because although the identities of its owners – the Glazer family from the US – are known, full details of their business empire remain a tax-haven mystery.
The companies that actually own the club are based in Nevada in the United States, a state that allows companies to keep secret the details of who profits most from their activities - their owners.
Christian Aid say their findings "do not suggest anything illicit" - but say they want to highlight "concern" over the "opaque nature" of tax havens.
Christian Aid's findings on Rangers state: "In a note to the latest accounts of Rangers Football Club plc, the ultimate parent company is Murray International Holdings Ltd. According to that company’s annual return, some 67% of its shares are owned by IFG Nominees C I Ltd.
"This company is registered in Jersey. On stepping down as club chairman last year, Scottish businessman Sir David Murray, who made his money through steel, mining and property development, said: 'I remain the majority shareholder and will always have the best interests of Rangers at heart.'
"He was 88th on last year’s Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of £500m. David Cunningham King is listed in the club’s 2009 annual report as having 3,064,627 ordinary shares in a company called Murray Sports Limited (MSL) 'as an authorised representative of Metlika Trading Ltd, a BVI company'. BVI stands for British Virgin Islands."
And on Hearts, they add: "The ultimate owner of Heart of Midlothian plc is UAB Ukio Banko Investicine Grupe, which is incorporated in Lithuania. Lithuania does not feature on the Financial Secrecy Index, so an average for the ten EU locations ranked was calculated and used instead.
"The score was very similar to that for Latvia, which was ranked. According to the club website, the principal shareholder in Hearts is Vladimir Romanov, whose son Roman Romanov is the club chairman.
"Vladimir Romanov, an ethnic Russian who took Lithuanian citizenship after that country became independent, is chairman of UBIG Investments.
"After independence he helped found the first private bank in Lithuania, of which he is still said to own 30%."
Christian Aid chief policy adviser Alex Cobham said: "The money lost to poor countries as a result of tax dodging by companies either trading independently, or as part of multinational groups, is around one and a half times the size of the international aid budget. It is a scandal that must be stopped."
"Football may seem an unusual subject for Christian Aid to tackle. And an alliance between a development agency and organisations representing the interests of football fans is also out of the ordinary.
"But we want to draw attention to the widespread damage financial secrecy can cause. And Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation share that concern – hence their open letter in the report calling for reform."
Dave Boyle, Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, said: "It is not good enough to say that no laws are being broken by the anonymity of club owners or the use of opaque ownership structures. What is being broken is something far more fundamental for football: the bond of trust between communities and the people who own the clubs."
And Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the Football Supporters' Federation, said: "If football clubs stopped being customers of tax havens, and legal secrecy hide-outs, the loss of trade would not be noticed. But the power of such a statement of solidarity with their devoted fans in Africa would be incredible."
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