Brent faces legal threat

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The Independent Online
George Walker, cleared of multi-million-pound fraud charges yesterday, said he was considering legal action for damages against his former leisure and property company, Brent Walker.

He looked dazed as he left the court, at first unable to grasp that after two Serious Fraud Office investigations and a four-and-a-half-month trial it was now all over.

But one hour later, at a packed news conference, the former boxer was back in fighting form, lashing out at the SFO, the judge and directors at his former company.

Flanked by his wife Jean, daughters Sarah and Romla, and his brother, the former champion boxer Billy Walker, Mr Walker said the company had reneged on promises to keep him as chief executive.

The SFO's investigation into Mr Walker was prompted in 1991 when it was alerted by a new board of directors, installed to try to salvage something from the collapsed company.

Asked what he felt about the way the banks forced Brent Walker directors to fire him with a 'lose him or liquidate' ultimatum, he replied that his sacking had been illegal.

'The banks have a lot to answer for about my personal situation,' he said.

'I was assured that if I put my own money to help support the company they would keep me on. But they sacked me.' Mr Walker raised about pounds 40m of his own money, and from family and friends, including 'Tiny' Rowland, which he invested in ailing Brent Walker's life-saving bond issue in 1991.

But he was deposed after a tense board meeting that lasted into the early hours. The decision was taken under 'undue pressure and duress', he said.

In his opinion the company's decision to sack him was a 'ruse' to have a second SFO investigation. It was 'completely spurious'. He had begun legal action for unfair dismissal, but may now consider action for damages for the return of his investment. Mr Walker has personal debts of pounds 180m.

Mr Walker, who now runs a small import-export business trading with the former Soviet Union, said he had received the support of many friends in the business community.

He felt he still had something to give the leisure industry, but would not disclose any business plans. His immediate plans were to 'go home with my family, have dinner and go to bed'.

He criticised the SFO for bringing the case, saying that investigators were only concerned to get him convicted rather than find out the truth. Asked if he thought the SFO gave value for money, Mr Walker replied bluntly: 'No.'

Mr Walker also attacked Judge Geoffrey Rivlin's six- day summing-up. 'He made references to a mansion in southern France, a house in Switzerland and private planes. It had nothing to do with the trial. I believe that was a statement that could only bring out the worst.'

He added: 'I think it would be madness to lose the jury system.'

Neither Brent Walker nor the SFO would comment.