DTI pays out more than pounds 26m: Lawyers and accountants reap reward of running investigations

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The Independent Online
LAWYERS and accountants have been paid more than pounds 26m by the Department of Trade and Industry for acting as inspectors on the 10 investigations it is currently undertaking, writes Heather Connon.

The fees cover only those that have been publicly announced, so they are likely to represent only a proportion of the total fees paid. The figure excludes the investigation of allegations of insider dealing by Lord Archer, for example, which was made public after details of the costs were released by the DTI.

The most expensive inquiry on the list is the one into Atlantic Computers, the leasing company whose collapse sents its parent, British & Commonwealth, into administration. That has cost pounds 6.5m so far.

The most surprising, however, is the pounds 5.3m paid to the two inspectors charged with investigating Mirror Group Newspapers. That investigation has been under way for less than three years, while inspectors were appointed to Atlantic in 1990.

One of the longest-running investigations, into Guinness's takeover of Distillers, which began on 1 December 1986, has cost just pounds 2.3m.

The information on costs, released in a Parliamentary written answer to a question tabled at the request of the magazine Accountancy Age, shows that accountants have taken the lion's share of the fees, with pounds 20.2m against just pounds 5.6m for the lawyers. The biggest winner has been Binder Hamlyn, which has earned pounds 5.4m so far for its inquiries into Atlantic Computers and Queens Moat Houses.

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