Last updated : 17 July 2007 By editor

The Independent reports:

'Police yesterday raided three football clubs - Newcastle United, Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers - as part of a major investigation into corruption. City of London police confirmed the raids, in which club premises at St James' Park, Fratton Park and Ibrox were searched and documents examined, started at 7.30am and continued throughout the morning.

'As well as the clubs, the homes of two individuals were also searched by detectives yesterday. A police spokeswoman later said the search warrants had been issued "in connection with alleged corruption in football and its impact on owners and shareholders".

'The spokeswoman also insisted that the operation was not connected to Lord Stevens' ongoing Quest inquiry into Premiership transfers and was "totally independent" of what his team were doing. "It has not been influenced or informed by the Quest inquiry in any way," she said.

'However, a clue as to what the police may possibly, in part, be investigating is contained in the Quest report that was released last month. Stevens' team spent 16 months examining the 362 transfer deals between January 2004 and January 2006 and, although refusing to sign off 17 transfers, said that 361 showed "no evidence" of any bungs being paid.

'That left one outstanding deal that the report said had not been examined because "another regulatory authority" was investigating it and Quest had been asked to back off so that the existing inquiry "should not be prejudiced by revealing the identity of the transfer".

'The City of London police, whose Economic Crime Department (ECD) handles cases of fraud, then confirmed that they were investigating allegations of corruption and other possible criminal offences in football transfers.

'The unnamed deal is certainly part of the investigations that provoked yesterday's raids. The ECD launched its own inquiry at the end of last year. Last month, as part of the operation, police arrested a 61-year-old man in Manchester on suspicion of money laundering. He was later bailed.

'Yesterday Newcastle, who have recently been bought by the sports retail billionaire Mike Ashley, issued a statement that confirmed the club had been raided. It read: "Newcastle United can confirm that it was visited this morning by the City of London police. The club itself is not the subject of the investigation.

'"If the investigation by the City of London police, or the ongoing internal review of operations by the club's new owners, show that the club has been the victim of any criminal activity, the club will take appropriate action."'