Fraud witness 'a frightened man'

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Clive Wolman, former City editor of the Mail on Sunday, yesterday denied telling a witness in a Serious Fraud Office trial that he should say he had been paid pounds 500 or pounds 560 by the newspaper to co-operate on a story about Michael Ward, the former chairman and chief executive of European Leisure, instead of the pounds 4,250 he was actually paid.

"No," said Mr Wolman, when asked the question by the defence at the trial of Mr Ward, who is charged with making a false statement to the Serious Fraud Office, trying to pervert the cause of justice and causing a document to be falsified.

Referring to the witness, Brook Anderson, Mr Wolman said: "I did say to him that we would keep the matter strictly confidential. He was a very frightened man and he was afraid that Michael Ward or one of his associates would find out about the payments. He would have been free to make up whatever story he wanted."

Earlier in the day, Mr Anderson told the court that Mr Ward had threatened him. "He made it clear that he could pay somebody to break my legs."

The prosecution has alleged Mr Ward used Mr Anderson to help him in a scheme to lay a false trail for detectives, who were investigating reports he had received "backhanders".

The prosecution has alleged that Mr Anderson recruited an American busineswoman to help in the scheme. The businesswoman, Lynn Russell, told the court yesterday how she had been recruited by Mr Anderson to send to London two false receipts totalling pounds 89,000. These purported to relate to sales Mr Ward had supposedly made to her of furniture and paintings.

She said Mr Anderson had telephoned her and asked if she could help Mr Ward, who needed to account for large cash balances in his account. She said she reluctantly agreed to send the documentation in return for $2,000, which Mr Anderson agreed to pay her. She said she never received the money.

The hearing continues.