Goldcrest fugitive surrenders

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The Independent Online

Donald Anderson, the former finance director of Goldcrest, a subsidiary of the Brent Walker Group, has given himself up to the police after almost three years as a fugitive. He appeared yesterday at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London.

Mr Anderson, a New Zealand citizen and said to have been a loyal colleague of George Walker, the company's founder, fled the country in July 1992 during the course of interviews with the Serious Fraud Office. At one point the SFO believed Mr Anderson might have been dead.

A warrant for Mr Anderson's arrest has been outstanding since January 1993 when Mr Walker, former chairman and chief executive of the Brent Walker Group, and Wilfred Aquilina, the former finance director ,were first arrested.

Further warrants were obtained in March 1993 when John Quested, former managing director of Goldcrest, was arrested, and again in December 1994 following the conviction and sentencing of Aquilina.

Mr Anderson is charged with two counts of theft, one charge of conspiracy to falsify accounting documents, one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice and four charges of false accounting, involving in total pounds 31.8m.

Mr Anderson has been granted bail. However the SFO is contesting this today, fearing that he may abscond again. Mr Anderson is represented by Michael Coleman of Harkavys, who acted for Mr Walker during the Brent Walker trial.

Mr Coleman said yesterday that his client had come back to face charges, having come to the conclusion that they "were not going to go away". There had been no pre-conditions or deals with the SFO beforehand.

He said that Mr Anderson was charged with conspiracy to falsify accounting documents, the charge on which Mr Walker and Acquilina were acquitted. Acquilina was convicted on one count of false accounting in relation to a false document to Touche Ross in 1991.

Mr Coleman said he had volunteered several conditions for his client's bail, including sureties of pounds 150,000, the surrender of his client's passport and an offer to report to the police twice a day. There was no reason to fear that his client would abscond because if that was in his mind he would not have come back.

Mr Walker is in the throes of trying to win back money he claims is owed to him by Brent Walker. Some banks have warned that they will put the company into receivership if he looks likely to win his case.

Mr Walker, who built the Brent Walker Group into a company that by 1990 had an annual turnover of more than pounds 1.5bn, was acquitted on all charges on 24 October last year. In his defence it was suggested that two film division directors, John Quested and Mr Anderson, were chiefly responsible for any wrongdoing.

Allegations about the accounting policy within Brent Walker's film division first surfaced in the Independent in August 1988. Brent Walker had hoped that success in the film division would provide the springboard for the company's launch into the big time but worries about the division's accounts prevented the group from being able to raise money through a rights issue. It had to rely on heavy borrowings, a strategy that has left the group close to bankruptcy.