Capel staff approached in Anglia shares inquiry

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A number of current and former employees of James Capel, the City stockbroking firm, have been asked to give evidence to Department of Trade and Industry inspectors looking into allegations of insider dealing in the shares of Anglia television.

Witnesses are being warned that they risk criminal prosecution if they disclose what is deemed as "restrictive" information about the inquiry. Even the letters summoning them for interview may contain such "restrictive" information, witnesses are being warned.

The investigation, which initially focused on Lord Archer, the Tory peer, was reopened last May after fresh information emerged.

Inspectors are arranging to undertake a number of interviews this month and hope to move their inquiries forward swiftly.

The Inspectors were first appointed in February 1994 under section 177 of the Financial Services Act 1986. They submitted a report on their findings in July last year when the DTI decided to take no further action.

However the same two inspectors, Roger Kaye and Hugh Aldous, were re- appointed to the task in May this year by the then President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, after new information came to light.

The DTI's fresh inquiries are believed to include looking at the purchase of 10,000 shares in Anglia by Karen Morgan Thomas, a friend of Lord Archer's, in January 1994.

This purchase, which does not appear to have been looked into during the initial inquiry, resulted in Ms Morgan Thomas taking a profit of around pounds 22,000.

The latest inquiries are believed to include suggestions that Lord Archer and Ms Morgan Thomas were in regular contact at the time of the MAI bid for Anglia.

The two are said to have contacted each other at least five times during the relevant period. Such contact as there may have been does not of course indicate that Lord Archer and Ms Morgan Thomas ever discussed the takeover. Indeed earlier in the year, she said she had learned nothing from Lord Archer about the MAI takeover. She said that she had bought shares in Anglia after reading a tip in a Sunday newspaper.

However the inspectors are believed to be keen to discover as much as they can about the contact Ms Morgan Thomas had with Lord Archer, whose wife was a member of the Anglia board, prior to her decision to buy Anglia shares. Lord Archer has always denied that he ever discussed the takeover with his wife.

Ms Morgan Thomas placed an order for 10,000 shares in Anglia at 431p each on 4 January 1994 and Lord Archer placed orders for 50,000 shares in the name of a friend, Broosk Saib, on 13 January.

MAI first indicated to Anglia that it would be interested in making a bid in December 1993 and its interest was first discussed at a board meeting on 5 January. It was not until 18 January that the 637p-a-share bid was announced to the Stock Exchange. Lady Archer was then a non executive director of Anglia.

Ms Morgan Thomas is believed to have telephoned Lord Archer's office on 8 July - the day news broke of the earlier DTI investigation.

She is reported to have cancelled a dinner date with him for that evening, saying she did not want to go to his apartment and be photographed by the press.

Those invited this month to interviews at the London offices of the accountancy firm Robson Rhodes, where the DTI inspector Mr Aldous is senior partner, are believed to include Martin Latham and Tony Guarnori, who both work in James Capel's compliance department. The inspectors have also contacted Eileen McAndrew, Ms Morgan Thomas's former secretary.

Also believed to have been invited to an interview is Nigel Weller, the former managing director of Javelin, a broking subsidiary of James Capel. Ms Morgan Thomas was Javelin's chief executive at the time of her share dealings in Anglia. Mr Weller, through a solicitor, is reported to have supplied the DTI with information, although he was not interviewed during the earlier investigation.

The new inquiry is regarded as highly sensitive in Whitehall and the City. The DTI will make no official comment on the affair, sticking to the line that it does not confirm or deny whether such inquiries are taking place.

James Capel will make no official comment about the status of the investigation. Nor woulda spokeswoman comment on whether the firm possessed any tape recordings of potentially relevant telephone conversations.

Individual employees at the firm have been told they risk losing their jobs by talking about the inquiry outside their work-place.