IT WAS THE pre-Craig Whyte £50m ‘fakeover’ of Rangers that really did prove to be Mission Impossible.
Because the Herald uncovered that it involved a businessman four years into a UK company directorship ban and the namesake of the central fictional character in the TV and film series Mission Impossible.
The so-called buyer had contacted the Herald about the plan to buy Rangers’ majority shareholder Sir David Murray’s controlling stake at Ibrox in May, 2010.
But the apparent “con” was only discovered through due dilligence when a fake proof of funds letter from Belgian bank KBC was discovered.
A key adviser to Sir David said the bank letter was fraudulent.
But no criminal proceedings have emerged from the case.
Detectives at Police Scotland said they were made aware of the attempt to con the Rangers board, but it never became a criminal investigation because no complaint was made.
KBC, meanwhile said that the bank had taken “all necessary measures and has fulfilled all legal and regulatory obligations” but would not discuss what action was taken.
Mr Murray had been in discussions with Ian Anderson, head of Spanish investment firm Protocol International who claimed to have a multinational consortium of investors ready to take over Rangers.
But the Herald was able to identify that Mr Anderson, who had led the talks, had been four years into a seven year UK company directorship ban imposed in 2006 after a previous investment company took millions in fees without providing any funds.
The development was reported to KBC’s group ethics and fraud unit of KBC and were expected to be investigating that take appropriate action.
The ‘fakeover’ came a full year before businessman Craig Whyte ill-fated purchase of the debt-ridden club for a token £1 from Mr Murray.
Kenny Moyes, the brother of ex Manchester United boss and current West Ham United manager David – introduced English-base Ian Anderson and a Dutch national as being keen on a buyout.
In discussions Mr Anderson had with Rangers and Mr Murray, he introduced an apparent partner, Ethan Hunt, who was described as Protocol’s trade and operations adviser. He shares his name with the central fictional character in the TV and film series Mission Impossible and is described as a master of disguises.
Protocol also had the slogan well known by Rangers supporters: “We are the people”.
The Protocol website said at the time that loans were written “with available funds of the company through legal, clean and clear funds placed with us by a consortium of private investors, banks and insurance companies”
The would-be buyout came a full year before Craig Whyte’s deal with Sir David Murray to buy the club for £1. The deal included a commitment to pay off the £18 million debt Rangers had with Lloyds Banking Group.
Mr Anderson sold the deal as part of a consortium of three investors including himself based in Spain, Holland and Italy who wanted to plough £20m to £30m over three to five years on players. They claimed they wanted to retain David Murray as president and Walter Smith as manager.
He claimed he and a group of other anonymous businessmen with “a banking background” based in Holland and Italy were behind the bid, including one who was said to be a life-long Rangers supporter.
Mr Anderson told the Herald at the time that they wanted to plough £20m to £30m over three to five years on players. They claimed they wanted to retain Mr Murray as president and Walter Smith as manager.
“I think if the bank know people are offering serious money to take £31m in debt out of it, they are going to grab Murray International by the short and curlies and insist they take it,” he told the Herald.
“The interest is because there is a lifelong supporter involved, and there is a desire to keep employment, create jobs and support a life long ambition. It’s about the prestige of having the club.
“The credibility of the bid is that a communication has been sent from a Belgian bank to Bank of Scotland/Lloyds TSB confirming the intent and the ability.
“We would take 91% of the shares. We were trying to do this properly but there has been opposition and we are using other tactics to prove availability and to do the deal.
“We went bank to bank with proof of funds but Murray did not want that.
“We have sent a bank to bank communication which will probably upset the board room to prove our ability to perform.”
Mr Anderson has been one of two directors of the Victoria Fintrade investment company which took more than £3m in processing fees and insurance deposits over four years from numerous clients without ever obtaining funding for them.
When winding up proceedings commenced against Victoria Fintrade in July 2003, they owed more than £3.5m and left behind a trail of defunct multi-million pound development projects. They included a $750m sports resort and indoor ski mountain in Calverton, the home of the tallest building on Long Island, USA.
The regulator said at the time they sought to institute a directorship ban on the directors by mid-July 2004.
The Insolvency Service said about the directorship ban that Mr Anderson, who was director and company secretary of the company was judged to have allowed VFL to conduct its business “with a lack of commercial probity”.
It confirmed: “The longer VFL traded, the more it depended upon its income on processing fees and particularly insurance deposits alone.
“A considerable volume of complaints had been and continued to be received by VFL from its clients.
“It was improper of Mr Anderson to continue to seek new processing fees and insurance deposits from new clients when VFL had failed to provide funding to earlier clients who had not received funding.”
Mr Anderson from Nottingham, was then identified as president and chief executive of Protocol, based in Mojacar, Spain with a claim to aim to secure loans of 10m euros and upwards. His website profile at the time described him as Dr Ian P Anderson and described how he was a member of the world’s largest anti-fraud organization the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
What he did not divulge was his involvement at director level of some 20 companies which dissolved, including his time with Victoria Fintrade.
A spokesman for Murray International said at the time: “I can confirm an approach was made and due diligence was carried out on both the parties involved and the information presented and it became clear that the information was absolutely not genuine. The decision was obviously taken not to pursue the approach.”
A source close to Sir David then added: “There is thankfully no question of any money changing hands. Sir David does due diligence on both the source and the parties involved. Proof of funds is the first thing that is normally done.
“It would not be difficult to go to the bank to confirm that the letter was genuine and authentic. That’s a first step. We don’t understand how they think they could get away with it.”