The still potential return of Dave King to the Ibrox boardroom has provided a boost to the number of Northern Hemisphere hits received by various previously obscure South African business & finance websites. And if ‘Google’ employs people to monitor such things, those people will be scratching their heads at the concentration of search entries for “glib and shameless liar” coming from certain parts of the West of Scotland. Glasgow-born but since 1976 South Africa-based “entrepreneur” King was branded thus by a High Court Judge, Brian Smallwood, in October 2010. The comment came in a ruling on an appeal (lost) by King against part of the tax debt he recently settled by paying the South African Revenue Service (SARS) the equivalent of £44m and pleading guilty to 41 counts of what he recently called “statutory contraventions” of the country’s tax legislation. That’s “statutory” as in “law.” And “contraventions” as in “breaks,” each of which could have landed King in prison for two years.
This ruling isn’t any more “news” than the disturbing revelations which emerged from Rangers’ annual accounts two weeks ago. It is available in all its 37,480-word glory on a “politicsweb” article headlined Dave King, a “mendacious witness” – another of Judge Smallwood’s King-directed gems. Indeed, veteran blogger Phil Mac Giolla Bhain quoted from the ruling in February 2011 in a piece which appears in his 2012 book Downfall, How Rangers FC self-destructed. However, Mr Justice Smallwood’s full character reference is a distinct 400-plus-word paragraph worthy of more detailed reproduction and examination. And elsewhere, the ruling provides the basis of his views, in a section which begins by telling us, in dry, formal terms that “Mr King’s evidence on a number of issues was not satisfactory” before detailing those issues, at length.
The judge’s assessment begins well enough for King: “Mr King is a tall, slim man in his 50s.” After all, not every man in the current Rangers saga could be deemed “slim.” However, this opening line is as irrelevant as it is factual. Still, the next couple of sentences could almost constitute a fine character reference: “He appeared to be very confident and not in the slightest uncomfortable about giving evidence. He is intelligent and articulate and appears to be well-versed in the intricacies of the financial world & the purchasing & selling of shares on the JSE (the Johannesburg Stock Exchange).” Again, not every man in the current Rangers saga could be deemed “intelligent” or “well-versed” in financial “intricacies.”
For King, however, the judge’s judgment goes downhill from here, faster than an Olympic downhill ski champion with the wind behind them: “Notwithstanding these advantages, he made a very poor impression as a witness.” Judge Smallwood continued: “He is extremely arrogant and obviously thinks that whatever he says is so.” This observation might suggest that King would not feel out of place among the “Rangers men” he may or may not be leading soon. And if it put you in mind of, to pick an example purely at random, former Rangers majority owner David Murray, be assured that you are not alone. And if you think that King was only being glib and shameless in front of his legal adversaries, let Mr Justice Smallwood happily disabuse you of that notion: “He deliberately misrepresented the facts of the case to his legal representatives.” As the ruling notes elsewhere: “Mr King agreed that… he did not want (his) South African legal representatives to know all the facts. He said that this was not necessary.”
This, it seems to me, was not only “extremely arrogant” (see above) but also mendacity to the point of delusion. And it hardly suggested confidence in his case. Equally bizarrely, he also “deliberately misrepresented the facts” to “representatives and solicitors” of the offshore trust (no true Rangers man is complete without one) involved in the case. That he did so “to SARS in correspondence” almost goes without saying. And King also lied to what is referred to as “the section 74 enquiry.” The ruling details this:
“When confronted by what he said at the enquiry, Mr King contended that the record was materially defective & did not correctly reflect what he said. He then conceded that he had been furnished with a copy of the recording, that he had been invited to point out where the transcript was wrong and that he (and presumably his attorney) had not done so.”
Even more remarkably, King proceeded to claim that “the court has already ruled that the section 74C evidence cannot be relied upon because it is materially defective and the Commissioner has agreed that this is so.” However, King “could not say which court had made the ruling.” And “No such ruling was produced by (King’s) legal representatives and no such ruling was referred to in argument.” This was almost as if King was making up evidence as he went along. Actually, on second thoughts, delete “almost.” No wonder Mr Justice Smallwood said that: “As his evidence progressed, it became clear that he has no respect for the truth and does not hesitate to lie, or at least misrepresent the facts, if he thinks it will be to his advantage,” adding: “There can be little doubt that on most occasions Mr King lied, as he knew the correct facts and obviously decided to misrepresent these facts.”
“In cross-examination, (King) often avoided giving a proper answer to the questions. Sometimes he simply ignored the point of the question and gave a long, rambling answer.” But “on other occasions” he… well… stop me if you think you’ve heard something like this before: “He resorted to bluster or to attacking the integrity of the cross-examiner, accusing him of misrepresenting the facts. He also attacked the integrity of the (SARS) Commissioner’s attorney, accusing him of presenting facts to the court, knowing them to be untrue. Ah, yes. Transfer that from Pretoria to Glasgow and you have accusations of “anti-Rangers agendas,” attacking the messenger while avoiding the message (“playing the man,” this has been called) and good old “whataboutery.” Did bulky communications chief James Traynor really write Rangers current combative media strategy? Or was it a lift from King’s courtroom “bluster.”
Either way, it was: “significant that (King’s) counsel have not attempted to make anything of these allegations. They clearly consider that there is no merit in (them).” So, all of this from the judge, and we still haven’t got to the “glib and shameless” stuff. He and two “assessors” (Messrs Matlala and Kilani) “saw Mr King testify in court and in cross-examination for four days and are unanimous that he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is supported by documents or other objective evidence.”
The ruling on King’s areas of “not satisfactory” evidence, from which many of the above quotes have been extrapolated, puts considerable meat on these bones. Among many soundbite-worthy gems are “Mr King contradicted himself about whether he had a loan account,” “not only is his evidence vague and unsubstantiated, but it makes no sense and is improbable,” (in another sub-paragraph, the ruling states simply that “Mr King’s evidence makes no sense at all”) and “Mr King denied that he did this, when it is clear that he did.” And my personal favourite: “When asked to testify about specific transactions he clearly could not recall any one transaction. He said he may have it at home but he did not produce any document to support the evidence.” Yes. In a High Court, King produced the sort of excuse normally associated with a panicky 11-year-old who hasn’t done his homework. He’d left it “at home.”
And so, at last, to the “glib & shameless” stuff: “It is remarkable that (he) showed no sign of embarrassment or any emotion when he conceded that he had lied to the commissioner in a number of his income tax returns. In our assessment, he is” (DRUM ROLL) “a glib & shameless liar.” It is almost impossible to conceive of a more damning all-round criticism of a court case witness. King’s mendacity was considered wilful and almost an abuse of the intelligence and articulacy for which the judge gives him credit at the start of this assessment. Indeed, King’s actions were deemed all the more contemptible for those qualities.
If, however, there is a worse example to be found, it hardly serves as a positive character reference for King. In February 2012, a judge described the evidence of one witness in a case before him as “wholly unreliable,” adding the comprehensively damning: “It is not possible to ascertain whether he is not telling the truth or is simply unable to recollect the true position, and has convinced himself that this arrangement is something that he would not have entered into. Either way, his evidence is contradicted by virtually every other piece of evidence.” And the identity of this seemingly confused individual? Craig Whyte – a man King is supposedly seeking to succeed. Which probably… needs no further comment.
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