'Dirty tricks' storm breaks over Swan bid

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DAVID TRISTRAM, who this week launched an eleventh-hour bid for Tyneside's Swan Hunter shipyard, claimed that opponents had begun a dirty tricks campaign to destroy a deal.

It followed tip-offs to newspapers that Mr Tristram was supposedly to be interviewed by fraud squad officers investigating the Athens-based Royal Trust of Greece.

It is understood that Scotland Yard has received several complaints that Royal Trust of Greece has accepted fees in return for promising to arrange loans.

UK businessmen have alleged to the fraud squad that Royal Trust's head, George Lagoudontis, pocketed up to pounds 14,000 a time to provide loans that never materialised.

Mr Tristram's consultancy firm did work for Royal Trust, carrying out feasibility studies on business plans and helping businessmen to raise finance.

He said that when he discovered Royal Trust and some of its business partners were being investigated he voluntarily prepared a report for the fraud squad.

Although he has not been contacted by the fraud squad, sources said they are close to completing their investigations and will interview him before sending a report to the Crown Prosecution Service.

On Thursday Mr Tristram's company, Organisation Management and Survey, launched a bid for the stricken Swan Hunter yard, claiming it had the financial backing and could place work with Swan immediately for a Greek ferry company. The receivers said they had been given no evidence of financial backing for the bid.

Mr Tristram, claiming vengeful former clients were behind attempts to ruin his credibility, said: 'You cannot do this sort of business without making enemies and coming across bogus companies.'

He said that only one client had parted with money for a loan that did not materialise. 'I am willing to help the fraud squad in any way I can. If they want me on the stand, then I'm willing.'

Police are said to be investigating a network of brokers who may have duped clients into paying fees to raise secondary finance because more established lenders turned down their projects. So-called advanced fee fraud is becoming of increasing concern to the authorities.

Royal Trust has been dogged by scandal. A London solicitor who acted for the company, Jeffrey Kershaw, faced extradition charges to the US in connection with the pounds 292m theft of Treasury bills and bonds from a Bank of England messenger in 1990.