Fellow directors 'lied to court to save skins'

The Maxwell Trial: Day 101
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The Independent Online

Kevin Maxwell yesterday accused several fellow directors in his father's media empire of lying to an Old Bailey court about what happened after his death in order to save their own skins.

Others, such as the former pension fund administrator Trevor Cook, had written "cover-up" memos about pension fund assets, the jury was told.

Some of those memos were supposed to have been sent to him but, in fact, he did not read them until after his arrest by the Serious Fraud Office, Kevin claimed.

For Mr Cook to suggest in November 1991 that he did not know Teva Pharmaceutical shares had been involved in a stock-lending programme with the bankers, Lehman Brothers, was "rubbish".

Another who had lied was Peter Laister, who became deputy chairman of Maxwell Communication Corporation in November 1991, Kevin alleged. "I don't think he was happy that I had been appointed chairman in his absence," he said. "But he had said he would help to the best of his ability and, like all the other directors, had pledged his support and encouragement."

Kevin said it was true that the two of them fell out over the conduct of the business. Mr Laister had tried to get him fired in November 1991 and succeeded in doing so the following month.

Kevin, who was concluding his fourth week in the witness box, assured the court: "At no time did I mislead Mr Laister."

While he was chairman of MCC none of his fellow directors ever suggested that his actions had made him guilty of wrongful trading in the civil sense or guilty of fraudulent trading in the criminal sense, he added.

When Alan Suckling QC, for the prosecution, asked if he was asserting that Mr Cook and the others were trying to save their own skins, Kevin replied: "Yes. It is an understandable human trait."

Mr Suckling asked: "Surely that is what you are trying to do: save your own skin?"

Kevin: "I think you are entering into the Lissack [Richard Lissack QC, who is co-prosecutor] school of questioning, in that if you don't get the answer you like you smear somebody else."

Re-examined by his defence barrister, Alun Jones QC, he told the court that he still believed the Maxwell group should never have collapsed. Throughout the months leading up to his father's death in November 1991, everything he did was coloured by the knowledge that although the group had debts of perhaps pounds 2bn, its asset worth exceeded pounds 3bn.

But he admitted that there were tremendous pressures because of liquidity problems and intense frustration at not being able to sit down and match inflows from asset realisations with debt outflows.

This was because of his father's insistence on spending millions of pounds attempting to stop the decline in the value of shares in Maxwell Communication Corporation.

"Looking back over the year, nothing has dimmed that frustration," Kevin said. "This was a group that didn't need to collapse."

Kevin, his brother Ian Maxwell and Larry Trachtenberg, a former Maxwell aide, deny conspiracy to defraud the pension fund.

The trial resumes on Monday.