Defence attacks regulators and banks

The Maxwell Trial; Day 112

JOHN WILLCOCK

Financial Correspondent

Kevin Maxwell's defence counsel yesterday slammed government regulators, solicitors, accountants and bankers for failing to stop the "casual movement" of assets around the Maxwell group.

Imro, the Government's watchdog for pension funds, had been "totally useless", Kevin's counsel, Alun Jones QC, told the Old Bailey jury.

Robert Maxwell's main banker, NatWest, his auditors, Coopers & Lybrand, and accountants KPMG all came under Mr Jones's criticism. Mr Jones even took a sideswipe at the state of English law at the time when Robert Maxwell ruled the roost. There had been "no legal fetters" on company bosses using and controlling pension fund assets. "None at all," he stressed.

Kevin Maxwell, the youngest son of Robert Maxwell, had openly admitted the shame he felt for the group's collapse and the responsibility he bore, he said. After his father's death left him at the helm of the ailing empire he never tried to say: "It's all dad's fault. I am giving up. I am going home."

He did not react with bitterness. He did not call in the receivers. Instead he did everything he could to save the group. His efforts had not resulted in any personal gain and he had not gone around "destroying and shredding evidence," Mr Jones stressed.

But what about the professionals? As long ago as 1988 accountants KPMG knew that Robert Maxwell was using pension fund investments as collateral for his takeover bids. And Coopers & Lybrand had known for a decade that the tycoon was moving assets around his empire, Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said NatWest could also be criticised, as it had encouraged Maxwell's "one-group philosophy" of his empire.

Kevin, his brother Ian, and the former Maxwell finance director, Larry Trachtenberg, all deny conspiracy to defraud by misuse of pension fund assets. The trial was adjourned to today.

Wednesday's Independent quoted Mr Jones as saying that, even if Kevin Maxwell been caught with a jemmy and a blow-torch in the vaults of the Bank of England at dead of night "it would prove he had plundered the Mirror pension funds". This should have read "it would not have helped you decide the principle question; who did he and his father consider those shares belonged to?"

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