Landhurst Leasing duo plead guilty

Two former directors of Landhurst, a leasing company that counted Bob Geldof and Terry Venables among its clients before collapsing in 1992, have pleaded guilty to corruption at the Old Bailey.
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The Independent Online
David Ashworth, the former finance director of Landhurst Leasing, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey yesterday to two counts of corruption after an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and City of London police. His pleas followed similar guilty pleas last Friday by Edward Ball, Landhurst's former chairman, to eight counts of corruption.

The two men admitted to accepting backhanders from Middlebridge (MGL), an engineering firm which was used in March 1990 to buy the Brabham motor racing name and team. At the time of the deal, Mr Ball was paid pounds 25,000 in cash, the first of several corrupt payments to the two directors by MGL which eventually totalled pounds 420,000.

Tim Langdale QC for the SFO, said: "Ball and Ashworth took full, dishonest advantage of their controlling positions at Landhurst for personal gain." The two will be sentenced on 17 October.

Landhurst specialised in providing and renting classic cars. It leased directly or bought the items from individuals and leased them back. It expanded from a turnover of pounds 2m in 1985 to pounds 38m in 1991, relying on loans from syndicates of merchant bankers to keep clients afloat even after arrears on leases started to build up.

With the recession, financial problems worsened. But instead of terminating the leases, Ball and Ashworth adjusted the books to give the appearance that all was well, accepting bribes to provide further loans to refinance debts.