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Documents expose a Tory minister’s efforts to facilitate the Saudi takeover of Newcastle.

Documents provided by the Department for International Trade in response to a FOIA request by open Democracy have further shown the UK government’s considerable attempts to promote the Saudi Arabian acquisition of Newcastle United.

They demonstrate that a minister made a pledge to the Premier League that he would obtain a response from “the highest echelons of the Saudi government” to a suggested “path ahead.”

According to the papers, in August 2020, Lord Gerry Grimstone, the then-minister for investments, requested that Gary Hoffman, the Premier League’s chairman at the time, provide the league’s legal counsel on “a path forward” for the delayed purchase by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Grimstone, a former banker with the Saudi government, said: “I can then certify from the highest levels of the Saudi Government whether this is achievable and we will all know what the situation is. Grimstone, a former banker chosen by Boris Johnson in March 2020 to entice investment and who has high-level connections in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, said, “This stands.”investment to the UK, told Hoffman.

The Saudi takeover of Newcastle

According to the documents, Grimstone was coordinating with the Saudi government and the Premier League about a potential “solution” in an effort to achieve the acquisition.

Newcastle | Internal documents copied to Downing Street officials and the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Neil Crompton, show the extent of Grimstone’s efforts, contradicting the UK government’s repeated claims that it had no part in the acquisition process.

In a parliamentary response to Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah in April 2021, Johnson claimed: “The government was not involved at any time in the takeover discussions on the sale of Newcastle.”

When the Guardian initially reported on Grimstone’s high-level negotiations to support the transaction in May of this year, a DIT representative minimised the minister’s role, claiming that he “never sought to push Mr. Hoffman and the Premier League to accept the Newcastle purchase.

” According to the spokeswoman, Grimstone merely carried out his duties to “keep track on major investments that may be coming into the UK.”

In four memoranda submitted to Crompton and two other unidentified Downing Street officials in August 2020, Grimstone informed them of his interactions with Hoffman, which included three phone calls and three WhatsApp communications.

The DIT severely censored the memoranda before making them public, claiming that doing so may harm the UK’s foreign relations or interests and that the information is confidential from a business perspective. The halted process was viewed as delicate and potentially “embarrassing” for ties with Saudi Arabia, and it is evident that Grimstone was seeking for a method the takeover might be authorised by the Premier League.

Grimstone informed Crompton in the first message that he had just had a 45-minute call with Hoffman on August 11, 2020″We made it very clear at the beginning of the dialogue that my sole role was to facilitate the exchange of ideas between the EPL and PIF,” Grimstone continued. and that in no way impacted the EPL’s entire autonomy in this subject.

Hoffman informed the minister that the Premier League’s attorney had stated that the PIF may be controlled by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The “fit and suitable individuals” standard that the league uses to certify owners and directors have to be passed by the Saudi state itself.

The next sections—all of which have been redacted—appear to lay out Hoffman’s justification for why that would have been an issue.

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