Bogus profit claim a lie, says Walker: Auditors 'would have seen discrepancies'

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The Independent Online
GEORGE WALKER, accused of massaging the accounts of his Brent Walker property and leisure empire, said yesterday that claims he knew the profits were inflated by pounds 19m were a lie.

The former chairman and chief executive told Southwark Crown Court that if he ever doubted the commerciality of any deal he 'would have been the first' to go to the company's auditors.

On his sixth day of giving evidence the former professional boxer clashed with Peter Rook QC as the prosecutor launched his cross-examination.

Mr Walker agreed that successive balance sheets were 'strengthened' by including retained profits from earlier years from 1984 to 1988.

Mr Rook asked: 'If at this stage you had to write off substantial profits from earlier years it would have had a devastating effect?'

Mr Walker replied: 'Of course, but if I had dropped dead as chief executive it would have had a devastating effect. I wish you would ask me direct questions instead of ifs, perhaps and maybe.'

The prosecution alleges that Brent Walker's profits for 1984-88 included 'a large slice of bogus profit' generated by the group's film division. Mr Walker disagreed: 'In that case the accountants must have been very, unbelievably stupid.'

Mr Walker said: 'It's a fact of life that I know more about business than you do.' He said that if there were bogus transactions entered in Brent Walker books 'they would have been found out by the auditors time and time again. There are no bogus transactions here, I keep telling you this'.

And he added: 'I have not heard of anything in this court to make me think there was.'

The prosecution claims that by boosting profits Brent Walker was able to attract investment to fund its spectacular growth. But later a series of 16 fictitious transactions had to be entered in company books in an attempt to cover up the true position, it is alleged.

Mr Walker, 65, and Wilfred Aquilina, 42, former group finance director, jointly deny conspiracy to falsify accounts, two charges of false accounting and one offence of theft.

Mr Walker also pleads not guilty to three further offences of theft and Mr Aquilina denies another offence of false accounting. The trial continues today.