Northern Ireland news

Carl Frampton began to doubt business relationship with Barry McGuigan in build up to Scott Quigg fight, court hears

 Carl Frampton and Barry McGuigan

Former world champion Carl Frampton's deteriorating relationship with ex-manager and promoter Barry McGuigan ended after the taxman called at the boxer's home about a £397,000 company VAT bill, the High Court heard today.

By the time they parted last summer the Belfast fighter believed Mr McGuigan was "ripping him off and concealing it", a judge was told.

Mr Frampton, who is suing over allegedly withheld earnings, has also said the cracks first appeared when he was allegedly "fobbed off" about being paid after defeating rival Scott Quigg in Februay 2016.

In a sworn statement he accused Mr McGuigan of abusing the trust he placed in him to look after his career.

New details of the case emerged on day two of a preliminary hearing to determine if the lawsuit should proceed in Belfast or London.

Reserving judgment following closing submissions, Mr Justice Horner pledged to give a decision as early as possible.

He also stressed: "These are mere allegations, there's nobody giving testimony, and they will have to be tested in due course either here or in London."

The boxer has issued a writ in Northern Ireland over an alleged failure to pay sums due in purse monies.

The action is being taken against Barry McGuigan, his wife Sandra McGuigan and Cyclone Promotions (UK) Ltd.

It forms the basis of Mr Frampton's counter-claim to separate legal proceedings brought against him by Cyclone Promotions at the High Court in London.

Mr Frampton, a former two-weight world champion nicknamed 'The Jackal', split with the McGuigan family-run Cyclone Promotions last summer.

The 30-year-old Tigers Bay-born fighter is facing an action from his former promoters for alleged breach of contract.

He is now counter-claiming on a number of grounds, including an alleged appropriation of fight earnings and a breach of the terms of an International Promotional Agreement (IPA).

The writ refers to contracts for bouts in Northern Ireland, England and the United States.

It involves claims against the now dissolved Cyclone Promotions UK Ltd, of which Mr and Mrs McGuigan were directors, over purse fees, broadcasting rights, ticket sales and merchandising from Mr Frampton's second world title match against Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas last year.

Carl Frampton's parents Craig and Flo arriving at court today. Picture by Hugh Russell

Lawyers for the McGuigans insisted all of the allegations are categorically denied and argued that the case should be dealt in London along with Cyclone's suit.

Although neither fighter nor promoter attended the preliminary hearing, Mr Frampton's parents, Craig and Flo, were present for arguments on the proper jurisdiction.

The court heard the name of Mr McGuigan's son Blain, who had previously performed in an indie rock band, was included on a promotional agreement with the boxer.

Gavin Millar QC, for Mr Frampton, submitted: "In reality the promotion was being done by Barry McGuigan.

"The presence of Blain McGuigan on the agreement is to mask the obvious conflict that arises through Barry McGuigan being, at that point, both the manager and promoter of he fighter."

He argued there had been a lack of transparency in arrangements for the income from his client's bouts and a "vagueness" about the Cyclone finances.

Stressing how the company made losses during the IPA, the barrister said: "How on earth it can hope to succeed in a claim for lost profits is frankly beyond us."

Mr Justice Horner was told the boxer claims doubts about his relationship with Mr McGuigan first emerged in the build up to the pay per view title unification fight with Scott Quigg.

In an affidavit Mr Frampton said he and his wife Christine noticed the McGuigan family, their wives and girlfriends were putting everything on the account.

The purse from the bout was to be split 57.5%-42.5% in his favour, he stated.

Referring to his inquiries about being paid months after the fight, he claimed "I was fobbed off" and told his opponent's promoters were "messing around" over money.

According to Mr Frampton, however, Scott Quigg was paid before him.

Moving forward to the summer 2017, Mr Millar claimed this was the point of his client's "realisation or belief that the McGuigans were ripping him off and concealing it".

At that stage he was preparing to face Andres Gutierrez in Belfast - a bout ultimately called off when the Mexican slipped and injured himself in the shower.

"He was training for the Gutierrrez fight scheduled for July 29 when the Revenue attended his home in Belfast with a demand for £397,000," counsel said.

The visit related to allegedly unpaid VAT by a Northern Ireland-registered Cyclone Promotions company.

Mr Frampton resigned as a director in the company at that point and appointed an independent accountant, the court heard.

With breach of trust claimed by the fighter, he also alleged in his affidavit: "It's my belief that Barry McGuigan and the McGuigan family abused the trust I placed in them in respect of my career as a boxer.

"Barry McGuigan was in a position where I expected him to safeguard my interests."

He further claimed that Sandra McGuigan assisted her husband in making undisclosed financial gain.

Previously the court was told of disputed allegations Mr Frampton's parents lodged up to £1 million into Mr McGuigan's bank account in Belfast.

The cash had been raised through selling tickets to their son's bouts - although the defendants have put the figure at around £220,000.

Mr Frampton alleged the McGuigans "took advantage" of his parents by asking them to lodge large sums of money into the account.

Before rising the judge confirmed: "It's a matter I will give due consideration, and I will give my judgment as early as I can.

"I do want an opportunity to go away and read all the papers again." 

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