Former Vale chairman Bill Bell was in court this week. Among the questions put to him were discrepancies in bar takings, false invoices and a payment on the Marcus Bent transfer fee.
Bell was being questioned in regards to the trial of Neil Hughes – accused of stealing around £9,000 from the club.
Hughes claims that Bell ordered him to create a false invoice to cover cash payments for electrical work. Bell denied a claim that he asked Mr Hughes to create a false invoice on a computer. Bell told the court “I didn’t even know you could create an invoice on a computer.”
Earlier, Mr Bell had been told by Judge Simon Tonking that he did not have to answer any question which could incriminate him when he was asked about transfer dealings relating to Port Vale’s purchase of striker Marcus Bent from Crystal Palace.
Mr Holroyde, defending, said Port Vale had agreed to pay an extra fee after a certain number of his appearances. But the court heard that Bent’s former club Crystal Palace had been through “turbulent times” and never requested the £27,025 fee.
Mr Holroyde said Mr Bell arranged a written cheque so the bill appeared to be paid to Crystal Palace. He suggested a member of staff had been asked to write out the cheque in an old NatWest cheque book after the club had actually changed accounts and moved to Barclays Bank.
Judge Tonking told Mr Bell: “I don’t know what the answer is going to be to this question Mr Bell but I will advise you, you do not have to answer any question, if the answer to that question would incriminate you in any criminal conduct.
“You are being asked about asking somebody else to produce something that was fraudulent.” Bell replied: “I don’t remember anything about this so I can’t really answer any question on it.”
The jury also heard claims that Mr Bell blocked calls for a police investigation over concerns that thousands of pounds in club takings were disappearing.
Defence barrister Tim Holroyde claimed Mr Bell instructed Club Secretary Bill Lodey not to minute marketing director Neil Hughes’s suggestion to involve police because it would be bad for publicity at Vale Park
Mr Holroyde told the jury how Hughes flagged up discrepancies between match attendances and takings at a board meeting in April 1998. The discrepancies included a match against Stoke City attended by 14,000 fans when no takings were recorded at the bar.
Among other concerns Hughes claimed to have raised with Mr Bell were:
– Two matches recording a 12,000 attendance, with no takings recorded at the bar
– Three matches with a 23,000 combined attendance, with £20.40 takings at the bar
– Two other games where £9.99 was recorded at the bar.