Attorney General denies fraud case deal

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, denied last night that Crown prosecutors and the Serious Fraud Office struck a plea bargain deal with Roger Levitt, the investment adviser sentenced to community service for misleading City authorities in 1993.

In a parliamentary answer released late last night, Sir Nicholas admitted that discussions between lawyers acting for the Crown and for Mr Levitt took place. "Such informal discussions are not unusual and would normally be confidential . . . there is no agreed record of what took place," Sir Nicholas said.

At these discussions, it was stated "what the Crown's attitude was likely to be if Mr Levitt tendered particular pleas". But the statement went on: "Prosecuting counsel continue, however, to reject the notion that they at any stage 'suggested' that Mr Levitt plead guilty to only some of the charges."

David Cocks QC, the senior Crown counsel in the Levitt fraud trial, was criticised by Labour MP Brian Sedgemore earlier this week for his public statements of surprise at the time at the outcome of the trial.

Sir Nicholas's statement last night went on: "The Serious Fraud Office were aware of the discussions which were taking place." The "joint recollection" of those present at a meeting between the director of the SFO and Crown lawyers on 5 November 1993 was that "the director was informed of possible pleas which leading counsel for the Crown advised should . . . be accepted". But the director of the SFO has told Sir Nicholas that, although he was "minded" to accept such pleas, "he did not give instructions that the pleas should be accepted if tendered".