National Crime Agency investigating £3m Wakefield Trinity ground deal
Organised crime detectives are investigating the deal that saw Wakefield Trinity buy their Belle Vue ground with the help of a taxpayer loan, it can be revealed.
The Super League club bought their home venue from a third party last year after Wakefield Council loaned them just over £3m.
But the National Crime Agency (NCA) is looking into the circumstances surrounding the deal and has spoken with top officials from both Trinity and the council, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands.
The probe is linked to the NCA’s ongoing investigation into Belle Vue’s former owner, Manni Hussain. A court order was granted in January to have his assets frozen, amid allegations he had links to organised crime.
It was revealed then that Leeds-based Mr Hussain had been asked to either explain the source of his wealth or hand it over to the authorities.
It followed the NCA saying last year it had been granted an unexplained wealth order in relation to Mr Hussain's portfolio of eight properties, believed to be worth a combined £10m.
It’s understood agency detectives visited West Yorkshire in March before lockdown to conduct formal interviews with some of the people close to the stadium deal.
Asked for comment, Wakefield Council's chief legal officer, Gillian Marshall, said: “In 2019 the council made a loan to Wakefield Trinity to purchase the stadium at Belle Vue from a company owned by Manni Hussain.
“The decision was made in private as it concerned the business affairs of the club, which is one of the categories under which information can be considered in this way. It was made by a delegated decision notice due to the urgent need by the club to conclude the sale.
"Wakefield Council has no association with Manni Hussain or his company and was only made aware of the NCA involvement through media reports. As the NCA proceedings are still ongoing we cannot comment further at this time.”
Wakefield Trinity declined to comment when approached.
The club’s purchase of Belle Vue last year was seen as a significant landmark in its pursuit of an improved home ground.
For several years fans had hoped Trinity would move to a new community stadium on land to the north of Wakefield in Stanley, but despite planning permission being granted in 2012 the ground was never built.
The club and the council said owning Belle Vue would allow for it to be redeveloped.
Club chiefs had been close to submitting a planning application for expansion just before lockdown started, but the pandemic stalled that process.
Papers leaked to the LDRS after the ground was purchased showed it was bought for around double its estimated value, which was around £1.7m.
Speaking about the investigation into Mr Hussain in January, the NCA's head of asset denial Andy Lewis, said: "This latest order will enable the NCA to properly scrutinise a sizeable sum of money.
"We are using all available tools to carry out investigations into possible illicit finance, and these efforts are a vital part of protecting the people and economy of the UK from serious and organised crime."
Local Democracy Reporting Service