Judge sums up in Ward trial

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AN ALLEGED bogus letter lies at the heart of the case against Thomas Ward, the former Guinness director accused of stealing pounds 5.2m from the company in 1986 in a joint enterprise with Ernest Saunders, the former chief executive, the Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Mr Ward, 53, received a payment of pounds 5.2m following Guinness's bid for Distillers. He was Mr Saunders' right-hand man during the bid and claims the money was his success fee.

Just over pounds 3m of the pounds 5.2m payment was lodged in Mr Saunders' Swiss bank account. The prosecution says the money was Mr Saunders' share of the spoils; Mr Ward insists that he was just borrowing the account.

In his summing-up, Mr Justice Turner reminded the jury that the letter, which supported the defence case, was not mentioned until the 17th day of the Old Bailey trial.

It was written by Mr Ward to his brother and with its date of 20 August 1986, seemed to provide a contemporaneous record that the pounds 3m did indeed belong to Mr Ward.

But the prosecution alleged that the letter could not have been written in August, as Mr Ward claimed, because it contained details of another bank account that was not opened until the following December.

Mr Justice Turner told the jury that if they decided the letter was genuine then 'out goes the prosecution allegation that this pounds 3m was part of Mr Saunders' cut'. If they decided it was not genuine, that did not prove that Mr Ward was guilty of theft. 'Be very clear about that,' he said.

But he continued: 'If it is a false document, what it tells you is that Mr Ward has not been honest and truthful in his evidence to you.

'And you would then have to go back and ask yourself the question: 'Why has he not been honest and truthful to you?' . . . Can (the letter) have come into existence for any purpose other than to mislead you?'

He said that if they concluded that the bank account did not exist until December 1986, they should ask themselves what that told them about Mr Ward's other contributions to defence evidence.

The jury will retire to consider its verdict on Monday morning.