Labour peer describes Walker as a fair and likeable man

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The Independent Online
GEORGE WALKER, the former tycoon facing theft and conspiracy charges, yesterday received a vote of confidence from Lord Richard, Labour leader in the House of Lords.

Lord Richard, a former European Community commissioner and ambassador to the United Nations, described Mr Walker as a 'freebooter' of the business world - a 'tough' negotiator who usually got what he wanted.

The life peer, called as a character witness, told the jury at Southwark Crown Court that the former Brent Walker chairman and chief executive was a fair and likeable man.

Lord Richard said he first met Mr Walker, 65, when a company Lord Richard headed was hoping to develop a site in Cardiff. Lord Richard's company was taken over by Brent Walker, with Mr Walker personally becoming involved in plans to build an exhibition centre, trade centre and hotel.

Lord Richard - the former Ivor Richard, MP for Baron's Court, who became a peer in 1990 - said Mr Walker was personally involved in the development from 1988 until about 1991.

The Crown alleges that at the time Mr Walker was involved in a fraud to illegally boost his empire's profits through the film division.

Lord Richard said he had succeeded the late Lord Harlech to the chairmanship of a small company hoping to develop one of the last available sites in the centre of Cardiff. 'None of us had any money and no experience in development,' he said. A number of developers were approached and Brent Walker was eventually brought in.

Colin Nicholls, QC, defending Mr Walker, asked Lord Richard how he had found Mr Walker. 'He was a tough negotiator and knew what he wanted. He usually got what he wanted in his negotiations. He was a fair negotiator, he was a likeable man, a bit of a freebooter in the business world.'

The peer, who remains chairman of the subsidiary, said the Welsh development was a success.

The trial is expected to continue today.