Information `cleansed' from pension records

The Maxwell Trial; Day 60
Click to follow
The Independent Online
After the death of Robert Maxwell the records of the pension funds were "cleansed" of all reference to holdings of Scitex shares, the Old Bailey fraud trial heard yesterday.

The allegation was made by Alun Jones, QC, defending the tycoon's son, Kevin, who has pleaded not guilty to conspiring with his father to defraud the pension funds by misuse of its pounds 100m investment in Scitex.

When he suggested to Jeff Highfield, an accountant and former Maxwell pension fund employee, that the edited history was prepared by the "soldiers left at the end of the war", he replied that he had not been responsible for preparing the records. Other former Maxwell aides had done this.

"Do you agree with this?" asked Mr Jones. "That a person in your position can face the world with greater confidence if the perception is that there is a small bunch of conspirators who misled a large number of people rather than that there were a number of people, a wide range of people, who failed in lesser particulars to carry out their responsibility as broadly spread?" Mr Highfield replied: "I really cannot comment." The witness added that, as a citizen, he had done his best to assist the Serious Fraud Squad in their inquiries.

Returning to the documents, Mr Jones pointed out: "There are no footprints here showing the removal of Scitex shares. This was printed out in Feb- ruary 1992 (three months after Maxwell's death) and there is no trace of Scitex shares by that time."

Mr Highfield agreed that anyone looking at the records would see no reference to Scitex, but he added that they did show cash was owing by the Robert Maxwell Group to the pension funds.

Mr Jones said that in August 1991 shares in both Scitex and Teva, another pension fund investment, were listed. They were included in a valuation of pounds 376m for the investment portfolio of Bishopsgate Investment Management, the group's pension fund company. In the following month the valuation of the portfolio had reduced to pounds 259m but there was no mention of Scitex.

Mr Highfield agreed that somebody had "deliberately" taken out the Scitex entry. Instead, there was an entry showing cash owed by the Robert Maxwell Group.

He said that stock lending had regularly taken place between the pension funds and other companies in the Maxwell group. He understood that it was done because when Maxwell companies wanted to borrow from financial institutions the collateral they could offer was not as acceptable as the diversified portfolio of investments held by the pension funds.

Kevin, his brother Ian, and a former Maxwell director, Larry Trachtenberg, all deny a charge alleging conspiracy to defraud the pension fund by misuse of the fund's investment in Teva shares.

The trial was adjourned to today.