Auditor 'failed to ask about huge loans'

The Maxwell Trial; Day 25


Financial Correspondent

An auditor from Coopers & Lybrand was criticised for failing to question Robert Maxwell about "hundreds of millions of pounds" which were loaned from Mirror Group Newspapers to the tycoon's private companies, a court heard yesterday.

Mr Alun Jones QC, defending the tycoon's son, Kevin, accused the accountant, Stephen Wootten, of sitting silent like a "tailor's dummy" at a meeting four months before Robert Maxwell's death - instead of demanding explanations about the vast sums, including pension fund cash, being lent.

Mr Wootten rejected the criticism; he had not known about the sums referred to by counsel. Earlier in the day, however, he disclosed that he and colleagues at Coopers & Lybrand face an inquiry by the Institute of Chartered Accountants over the way the Maxwell empire's audit was conducted.

The firm audited hundreds of companies in the tycoon's empire until his death. Another Coopers' witness in the trial, Peter Walsh, two other Coopers' partners and the accountancy firm as a whole were the subject of inquiries on the Maxwell saga by the Institute of Chartered Accountants' Joint Disciplinary Scheme.

Earlier, both Mr Walsh and Mr Wooten had denied knowledge of an "intercompany debt culture" in which the tycoon transferred cash around his group, including the pension funds, at his own whim.

Mr Jones also suggested that everyone at the meeting on 23 July, 1991 had realised that Robert Maxwell would settle debts between the various companies only as long as the group as a whole survived. Mr Wootten told the jury that he could not speak for the others at the meeting but he was certainly not aware of such a situation.

Asked if he knew that there had been a pattern of pension fund money being lent to Maxwell's private companies, he replied: "No, I did not."

Mr Wootten also denied meet ing Kevin Maxwell before the meeting to discuss how it was to be conducted. Had he wanted to ask Robert Maxwell about inter-company loans he was free to do so. Mr Wootten denied being intimidated by Robert Maxwell, but accepted the suggestion that the tycoon was the "dominant force in all his companies." Mr Wootten also said he had not been aware at the time of the meeting on 23 July that Maxwell had the power to sign cheques personally.

The court heard that Coopers were paid pounds 3.6m for auditing most of the companies in the Maxwell empire. "We did a lot of work for them and received substantial sums," the accountant said. But when Mr Jones suggested that the "domineering Mr Maxwell" was such a valuable client that he would not dare raise the issue of inter-company loans, Mr Wootten replied: "That is not the case."

In the dock are Kevin Maxwell, his brother, Ian and two former Maxwell aides, Larry Trachtenberg and Robert Bunn. All deny conspiracy to defraud. Kevin alone denies conspiring with his father to defraud the pension scheme by misusing pounds 100m of investments.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little