Delay casts doubt on Guinness lawyer's trial

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A FURTHER three-month delay has been ordered in criminal proceedings against Tom Ward, the Washington lawyer alleged to have played a key role in the Guinness affair.

The new delay has raised doubts about whether Mr Ward will ever be brought to trial.

At a private hearing last week, the courts agreed to reschedule the start of Mr Ward's trial from 1 October to 11 January.

The latest delay was ordered after Mr Ward unexpectedly switched firms of solicitors. The new lawyers were said to need more time to acquaint themselves with the case.

If the new date is met, nearly eight years will have passed since the events that gave rise to the complaint by the time Mr Ward stands trial. Criminal proceedings against those involved in the affair have been dogged by delays throughout.

Mr Ward, who lives in Annapolis outside Washington, agreed to abandon a two-year fight against extradition from the US and return to Britain to stand trial just over a year ago.

Mr Ward is charged with the theft of pounds 5.2m from Guinness. He has always claimed that the money represented a success fee for his work on the Distillers takeover.

Mr Ward, who has been living in the US since the Guinness scandal first broke, was a close personal adviser to Ernest Saunders, the former Guinness chairman. He is the last person to stand trial in connection with the pounds 2.7bn takeover fight.

The Serious Fraud Office convicted four men over the Guinness affair - Mr Saunders, Gerald Ronson, Anthony Parnes and Sir Jack Lyons - but was forced to abandon charges against three others.