The Independent Archive 6 September 1989 - Bridge partners chose to play for higher stakes

Yesterday Alison Anders and Royston Allen were each sent to prison for five years. Mark Douglas Home tells the story of their attempted pounds 23m fraud
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AN ARTICULATE young English woman called Alison Anders walked into Dartford public library in Kent in June 1988 on a bizarre, private quest. Somewhere among the library's microfilmed back copies of local newspapers, she hoped to find a new identity for herself.

Eventually, she came across the tragic story of two young sisters killed in a road accident in 1971. Anders noted the name and other personal details of the older victim, and went to St Catherine's House in London for a copy of her birth certificate.

The next stage of the subterfuge, culled from the pages of a Frederick Forsyth novel, was executed the following week after she had returned to her home in Aberdeen. Royston Allen, her lover and bridge partner, helped her to forge a passport application form in the name of the dead girl, Ann Glenda Killick.

It was only when she returned to Aberdeen, the false passport safely in her possession, that Anders finally made up her mind to attempt one of the biggest frauds in British history.

The scheme was simple enough. Anders, a senior accounts assistant with Britoil, knew that the company would soon be paying pounds 23,331,996.95 to Lombard North Central in London for the lease of an oil-rig. It would be her responsibility to deliver the form authorising payment to the Bank of Scotland.

She planned to steal the form and substitute an international payment application directing the money, the largest single amount ever handled by Britoil's Aberdeen office, to a Swiss bank account. She reckoned she and Allen, a member of Aberdeen's Granite City Oilers American football team, had a 60 per cent chance of success.

The plot only began to take shape when, during a "pretty ghastly" bridge post-mortem in a pub, she made a "joking" remark about needing bridge practice on the beach at Rio. She also mentioned the Britoil money.

Allen barely reacted. But, on his return to Aberdeen from a short business trip to Abu Dhabi, he told Anders that he had made contact with a man who could "manipulate a Swiss bank account". That contact was the mysterious businessman called Hajideen, a half- Albanian, who had married a princess in Abu Dhabi. Anders remembered Allen painting a romantic picture of him. She was later to refer to Hajideen as "a duplicitous bastard".

The fraud plot was executed on Tuesday 28 June 1988. But, the next morning, a Britoil executive said the pounds 23m payment had been queried. Anders felt sick. She fled to Abu Dhabi to join her lover and her co-conspirators. She did not know then that the payment had been stopped soon after she left Britoil's office.

She spent her first night in Abu Dhabi in the Holiday Inn hotel. The next day she met Hajideen. He lost his temper and accused Anders and Allen of double-crossing him. He said he had paid $500,000 as a "non- refundable" bribe to the manager of the Swiss bank, and that the Mafia's cut of the fraud would have been pounds 8m. There was talk of "legs being broken."

Anders left Abu Dhabi after being threatened by Hajideen's "gofer", a Lebanese man called Omar. He had driven her to the desert and told her that it "was a very big place, and I wasn't a very big person, and it would be very easy for me to disappear".

She flew to Vancouver via Singapore and travelled by Greyhound bus to Seattle in America. They were lonely, unhappy months for her. She finally settled in Portland, Oregon, sharing a flat with another girl, but money was tight. She got a job cleaning offices at night, then she became an assistant in a flower shop.

Another man entered her life. Brad Smith, a baker, knew her as Ann Killick and believed they would have married if she had stayed in America. But at 2.40pm on 18 May this year, after almost 11 months on the run, she was arrested by FBI special agent James Russell. Allen had been arrested in Scotland 12 days earlier. His estranged wife Megan had had enough of his obstructing the divorce she was seeking. She had begun an affair with David Nance, Allen's business partner.

But Mrs Allen and Mr Nance also shared something else. Allen had allegedly told them both of his involvement in the attempted fraud. They went to the police. A piece of paper found in Allen's office had an address in Portland, Oregon, on it. The trail led to Anders.

From the Home News pages of `The Independent', Wednesday 6 September 1989