Formula One obsession led to pounds 50m Landhurst fraud
Saturday 18 October 1997
John Snow, the England test cricket legend, gave evidence yesterday on behalf of one the two men, whose "obsession" with Formula One racing drove them to commit a pounds 50m fraud.
Ball, founder of Landhurst Leasing, saw his dream of being a Grand Prix major player shattered in 1992 when his company collapsed following an investigation by accountants Arthur Andersen.
The accountants unearthed a web of corrupt cash payments by a corporate client, Middlebridge Group Ltd (MGL), to Ball and Ashworth, Landhurst's finance director. Both pleaded guilty to corruption charges last month. Mr Justice Pownall heard their counsels' pleas in mitigation yesterday. They are due to be sentenced on Monday.
The Old Bailey heard how Ball's company provided pounds 1m to MGL to buy the historic Brabham Racing Team in 1990. This was in itself a breach of Landhurst's covenants with its banks.
Ron Thwaites QC, representing Ball, claimed his client's passion for racing "blinded" him to his business commitments and he and Ashworth "cooked the books" to hide from the Guinness Mahon merchant banking adviser the support they were giving to Middlebridge. In return Ball and Ashworth demanded pounds 420,000 in backhanders.
The court heard that when Ashworth was first offered a cheque by Middlebridge, he said: "Don't be silly, I want cash."
At another time Ashworth arrived at a motorway service station on the M1 by taxi and was given a briefcase containing pounds 60,000 in banknotes by a Middlebridge contact. In total, pounds 8.5m was advanced to Middlebridge.
Landhurst's banks were led by Guinness Mahon, and included the Prudential, and several Swiss and Canadian banks. The court heard how, when Andersens were called in, only pounds 70m of pounds 121m lent by the banks to Landhurst was recoverable. Of the pounds 7.2m which MGL owed to Landhurst under various leases, only pounds 1m was recoverable.
Fast bowler Mr Snow, who played for Sussex and England, was called as a character witness to explain Ball's other "obsession" - supporting charity. The cricketer said he had known Ball for nearly 20 years, first through business and then through the charity the Lords Taverners, which raises cash through cricket matches.
Mr Snow said he believed Ball to be straightforward and honest. "He is also very generous through his charity work. "He participates in that without any calling for publicity."
Ball, of Hartfield, East Sussex, has admitted eight charges of corruption. Ashworth, 45, of South Ascot, Berkshire, has admitted two charges.
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sussex couple die in suspected Christmas Day 'suicide pact'
- 5 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...