Bestwood ex-chairman alters plea

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The Independent Online
TONY COLE, former chairman of the mini-conglomerate Bestwood, has pleaded guilty to eight charges of perjury, fraud and false accounting. He will be sentenced this morning, writes Jason Nisse.

Cole, who was restricted to staying within Greater London and Essex as part of his bail conditions, changed his plea yesterday at the Old Bailey. He has pleaded not guilty to seven other charges - six of theft and one of conspiracy to defraud - and it is likely that the prosecution will offer no evidence on these counts.

Two other men, Peter Southgate, an accountant, and William Collins, a stockbroker, have already pleaded guilty to charges arising from the investigation into Bestwood by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Serious Fraud Office.

Cole was involved in a heated battle to keep control of Bestwood after being ousted as chairman in 1988. The Bank of England made it known that it would be unhappy if Cole was a director of Bestwood as it controlled a financial services company.

Five of the offences relate to loans made by a subsidiary of Bestwood to Cole in 1986, one to a loan made by another subsidiary in 1988, one to false statements made by Cole to Bestwood's auditors, BDO Binder Hamlyn, and the final one to a false affidavit sworn by Cole in 1989.