March 2015: A director of an online gambling company linked to two Premier League clubs has been arrested in connection with a £21 million 666Bet online gambling fraud and money-laundering investigation, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Former football manager Harry Redknapp (pictured) was signed for an advertising blitz last year by 666Bet, which announced deals with West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City. Last week, the UK gambling regulator suspended its licence.
One of the firm’s directors was arrested at Heathrow airport last week as part of a joint HM Revenue & Customs and National Crime Agency investigation. Six other people were also arrested, 13 properties were raided and £1m in cash seized as part of Operation Bannock, an HMRC-led investigation involving police officers from across the UK, as well as investigators on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Paul Bell, a former stockbroker turned investor, was later released by police before being re-arrested the following day when he arrived on the Isle of Man by private jet.
Neil Andrews, 666Bet’s head of brand, said in an email: “I can categorically state the [police] investigation does not relate to 666Bet’s activities in the gamin [sic] world.” He added that the inquiry has “nothing to do with the day-to-day running of 666Bet”.
The Gambling Commission refused to comment yesterday, but has previously said its suspension of the Metro Play Limited licence, which covers 666Bet and Metro Play, does not prevent the firm from “returning outstanding balances to customers”.
Mr Bell, who is reported to be worth around £400m and is a shareholder in several FTSE-listed companies, is said to have interests ranging from payroll and recruitment to development, hospitals and care homes. A source said yesterday that Mr Bell “vigorously denied any wrongdoing” and was a “well respected” member of the business community on the Isle of Man who gave “generously” to local charities.
Documents from the Isle of Man Financial Crime Unit, seen by The IoS, lists Mr Bell as an individual who is currently “part of an active criminal investigation”. The note to regulators lists three other individuals and 25 firms as also under investigation.