Boustead shares suspended in asset dispute

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The Independent Online
THE FINANCIAL Services Authority has suspended the shares of Boustead, a Far Eastern engineer-turned-cash shell which has failed to reveal the whereabouts of its main asset, pounds 2.6m of cash.

The company said last night that it had sacked its auditors for a "serious breach of client confidentiality", after a long-running dispute.

Kingston Smith had refused to sign off the company's accounts in September, saying that it had not been provided with details of the pounds 2.6m deposit with "a non-financial organisation in the Cayman Islands". Since then a partner at the audit firm, Peter Timms, has been repeatedly quoted in a national newspaper discussing the search for details.

The company's most recent formal statement on the issue, on 12 January, was that it had provided new information to Kingston Smith, who were verifying it. Boustead, which sold its Far Eastern engineering business to concentrate on pursuing ventures in Nigeria, is chaired by Sir Thomas Macpherson, 84, the serial director.

The company initially blamed the hurricanes of last autumn for the failure to provide Kingston Smith with proof of the whereabouts of the cash. Its shares were suspended by the FSA "pending clarification of the company's financial position".

A statement from Boustead, released yesterday, said: "In view of the uncertainty generated in the press concerning the recovery of a significant debt, of whose validity the executives have no doubt, the company believes the suspension of its shares should continue until the appointment of new auditors and full clarification of the company's financial position."

Kingston Smith was unavailable for comment after the statement.