Vladimir Romanov says HMRC has vendetta against Hearts

Vladimir Romanov says the tax authorities have been unreasonable towards Hearts
Vladimir Romanov says the tax authorities have been unreasonable towards Hearts
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Vladimir Romanov has insisted he will not allow Hearts to go bust – and has accused the HMRC of pursuing a vendetta which has pushed the club to the brink of administration.

The Tynecastle owner claimed the UK tax authorities has been unreasonable in their treatment of both the Edinburgh side and himself.

Last week, Hearts settled an outstanding £450,000 bill with HMRC before going on to strike a deal to stagger payments over a separate claim for £1.5m which stemmed from players who had been on loan from Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas.

Speaking for the first time since the tax crisis has gripped the club, the banking tycoon claimed in an interview the taxman had placed the club in an unnecessarily precarious position. But asked if there was a prospect of the club going under, Romanov – whose UBIG company retains Hearts’ £24m debt – responded: “I don’t think that I would allow that to happen to the club.

“Do you think that a missed payment for one month of tax is sufficient reason to put the club into administration or liquidation? There is an obvious answer. We have our income and we were able to demonstrate to HMRC that we have sufficient income to cover that liability. So the threats were really a draconic measure.

“It’s a very stupid argument. I cannot see the logic in trying to close the club for nonpayment of a monthly tax where, if you want to know, you can find out the money will be available.

“What do I need to think as a foreign investor? That somebody just doesn’t want me here? Someone is trying to create this pressure with the help of the tax situation.”

Despite his pledge to ensure the club will not go under, he claims to have sunk £60m into the club and insisted he will spend no more of his own wealth. Hearts face a seven-figure shortfall between income and expenditure from now until the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Romanov has warned the Foundation of Hearts that they must find more private financial backing if they are to mount a viable takeover of the club.

He said the initial offer by the consortium, comprised of local businessmen and led by Alex Mackie, as a “bad joke”.

The 65-year-old said: “In our view, this does not show their good intentions, but they said they will come back with a real offer reflecting the value of the club, so we wait to see what that will be.”

In a slight dig against FOH, he added: “I am surprised they want to buy the club with supporters’ money, and not invest their personal wealth like I did seven years ago.”

Despite being keen to sever ties with Hearts, Romanov has refused to put a definitive price on the club. Hearts currently owe Ukio Bankas Investment Group – which he controls – around £24m. Full subscription of the share issue would raise £1.79m, but he insisted that does not mean the club is automatically worth £18m.

Romanov also went on to discuss he struggle with the media, football authorities and HMRC, which he suggested had unfairly treated him.