American Chris Knight, who purchased a majority share in the ownership of the Belfast hockey team Giants late last year, has come under criticism since his name was found on a US sex offenders registry.
The Belfast Telegraph now reports that Knight believes his name was added to list erroneously and that he is in the process of having it removed.
Knight claimed he was never convicted of the charges. He added that he has legal representatives addressing the issue he described as “an error.”
Knight was charged in 2003 with lewd or lascivious battery, which means he is alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with a person aged between 12 and 15, and he remains on the sex offenders register.
“I am in the process of trying to have that removed,” Knight said. “It was an error on their part (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), is the best that I can state because that website is for people who are convicted and I have never been convicted.”
In November, Knight, a businessman with a UK address, purchased the Belfast Giants ice hockey team for a reported $222,000.
Todd Kelman, the former Giants general manager, said the November 2012 sale — by former owner Jim Gillespie to Knight — was “too fast.”
Kelman added that he immediately contacted Knight when he heard his name was on the sex offender registry.
“I raised my concerns with Mr Knight and I was fobbed off.”
“That led to me resigning. I cannot work for someone like that — it’s damaging. The deal with Mr Knight was done very fast, too fast. There wasn’t enough time for due diligence into looking at who he was.”
On Tuesday, Kelman was appointed as a consultant by the Odyssey Trust, the company that oversees the Odyssey Arena where the Giants play, as it forms a new company to operate the team itself. Sources say that Odyssey Trust is keen to take full formal ownership of the Belfast Giants.
Brian Burke, chairman of the Odyssey Trust, insisted the future of the team is secure. “We became aware of major issues relating to the new owner of the Belfast Giants on February 1,” said Burke.
“We immediately moved to protect the Odyssey complex by conditionally terminating the Belfast Giants (2008) Ltd's contract to play at the Arena while entering into a ‘without prejudice’ agreement to ensure the team continued with its games and its commitment to the league and its fans until the end of the season.”
Burke added that, “We would also like to assure the loyal Belfast Giants fans that we are committed to protecting the excellent reputation and long-term future of the team.”