Courts grant access to Maxwell books

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THE US courts have given Arthur Andersen, the administrators of the Maxwell private companies, access to the books of two companies believed to still be in the control of the Maxwell family.

The ruling led to the accountants finding dollars 500,000 ( pounds 260,000) of missing funds within hours.

Price Waterhouse, the administrators of Maxwell Communication Corporation, has applied for a similar order.

The companies are PH (US) Inc, a Delaware company controlled by the Maxwell Charitable Foundation in Liechtenstein, and Sphere, a California computer games company where Christina Maxwell, one of Robert Maxwell's four daughters, is a director.

Sphere set up an office in the City from which Kevin Maxwell was found to be still conducting business in June. PH (US) Inc has notified accountants tracing Maxwell assets that it has claims over various holdings, including a 6 per cent stake in Newspaper Publishing, publisher of the Independent and Independent on Sunday, a stake in Oxford United football club and Kevin Maxwell's house in Chelsea.

Investigators have found that more than pounds 14m was transferred into PH (US) Inc from Maxwell companies in the months before Maxwell's death in November.

In addition, accounts of Corry Stiftung, one of the secretive trusts used to buy shares in MCC, show that money transferred to Corry from the City lawyers Titmus Sainer Webb on behalf of Maxwell was then transferred to PH (US). Titmus Sainer has said that, as far as it knows, there was nothing illegal about these transfers.

Andersen, which has been trying to unlock the secrets of the US companies since March, has been granted assistance under Section 304 of the US Bankruptcy Code. This allows the accountants to see the books of PH (US) Inc and Sphere, and to question officers of the company and advisers.

Andersen has a hit list of 20 people it wishes to question, including Kevin Maxwell and two US lawyers who were close to Robert Maxwell - Sheldon Aboff and Ellis Freedman. Mr Freedman is also the representative of Swico Anstalt, a Swiss holding company controlled by the Maxwell Foundation.