Brent Walker finance man convicted

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The Independent Online
A former finance director of Goldcrest, once the film-making subsidiary of Brent Walker, was convicted yesterday of attempting to pervert the course of justice by organising a wide-ranging cover up of the Brent Walker profits fraud.

Donald Anderson, 43, created false documents between August 1988 and October 1990 to cover up pounds 19m of bogus profits reported by Brent Walker between 1984 and 1987, the prosecution said. He was also involved in the laundering of pounds 19.5m through the Bahamas and the Isle of Man.

Anderson was remanded in custody last night to await sentencing, possibly today.

Anderson, a New Zealander, fled the country during the course of interviews with the Serious Fraud Office in 1992 and did not return until last November.

Warrants for his arrest were issued in January and March 1993 and he should have been a defendant in the first Brent Walker trial in 1994 in which George Walker, the leisure firm's founder, was acquitted of theft charges.

In the first trial the SFO secured the conviction of Wilfred Aquilina, Brent Walker's former finance director, on one count of supplying false information to accountants.

Aquilina was fined pounds 25,000 and given an 18-month suspended prison sentence. John Quested, the former managing director, pleaded guilty to misleading the SFO and was given a nine-month suspended sentence and a pounds 30,000 fine.

Allegations about the accounting policy within Brent Walker's film division first surfaced in the Independent in August 1988.

Brent Walker had hoped that success in the film division would fuel the group's growth. But worries about the division's accounts stopped the group being able to raise money through a rights issue and it had to rely heavily on borrowings, which the group is still repaying.

The SFO's case rested on the assumption that Brent Walker had funded its profits itself. It gave the impression that it was making sales to third parties, which, in reality, were part of the Brent Walker group. This created the illusion of profit.

The SFO claimed last night that Anderson was paid by Brent Walker for covering up the fraud. On at least three occasions he collected bearer bonds and cash totalling pounds 750,000 from Geneva which had been laundered through the Bahamas and Liechtenstein.

"It is ... a sad case that a man with obvious intelligence ... should have so misused his talents out of financial greed and personal ambition," Peter Rook, QC, prosecuting for the SFO said during the trial.

Anderson had confessed to Freddie Fisher III, a director at Goldcrest, who become a key prosecution witness.

The trial, at Southwark Crown Court, opened on 2 October.