Last Guinness scandal trial begins

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The Independent Online
THE LAST trial to arise from Guinness's pounds 2bn takeover of Distillers in 1986 began yesterday, with the prosecution promising a 'head-on' collision between two former Guinness directors - Thomas Ward, accused of the theft of pounds 5.2m from Guinness, and Olivier Roux, a principal prosecution witness.

Mr Ward, 53, an American lawyer who acted as an adviser on the takeover bid, is charged with the theft in May 1986 of pounds 5.2m worth of Guinness property, false accounting and dishonestly procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception.

He has denied the charges, saying that pounds 5.2m paid into the Jersey bank account of Marketing and Acquisition Consultants, a company that he controlled, was a lawfully agreed success fee.

Yesterday Victor Temple, prosecuting, told the court at the Old Bailey that evidence from Mr Roux, the Guinness director in charge of financial strategy and development during the bid, would 'go to the heart of the case'.

'There is going to be a head-on collision between the defendant and Roux as to the course of events.'

The jury heard that Mr Ward and Mr Roux sat on a three-man committee of Guinness directors - led by the then chief executive, Ernest Saunders - which was set up to run the takeover bid.

'The relationship between the defendant and Ernest Saunders was much more than just two directors who happened to work for the same firm,' Mr Temple said. Mr Ward was a friend and close confidant, as well as principal adviser, to Mr Saunders.

The prosecution acknowledged that the defendant had made a significant contribution to the successful bid and, as such, Mr Ward deserved payment.

But Mr Temple alleged that he and Mr Saunders, 'doubtless motivated by greed' devised a joint enterprise. They realised they had 'not only the means but also the opportunity to acquire, quite dishonestly, the wholly inflated sum by the simple device of submitting a single false invoice'.

Both men, he continued, were sufficiently powerful to deflect any queries raised about any particular invoice.

The trial continues today.

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