Last-minute 'Hand of God' rescue failed

The Maxwell Trial; Day 52
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The Independent Online

Financial Correspondent

A last-minute rescue package for the ailing Maxwell empire was known as "The hand of God", an Old Bailey jury heard yesterday.

Previously, the Maxwell jury heard that the white knight was an Israeli, but it emerged that an unnamed Arab was "seriously" considering a pounds 400m investment two weeks after tycoon Robert Maxwell's death on 5 November 1991.

David Vogel, a solicitor, told the court he had helped draft an investment package acceptable to the rescuer. However, he said, the deal had failed because of the passage of time and when the businessman "lost interest".

Mr Vogel, a partner with Titmuss, Sainer and Webb, said he did not know the identity of the mystery investor; it was "someone in the Middle East but not in Israel. Someone in the Arab world".

But he believed contacts had been made with the Arab in Israel, where Maxwell had substantial business interest. He had flown with Ian Maxwell to Tel Aviv on 22 November that year to try to settle the deal. Ian had gone with an Israeli attorney to meet the businessman and his intermediary, David Kinche, a former Israeli government minister.

Mr Vogel said that the proposal appeared to be acceptable as long as the Maxwells could rely on the continued support of their banks. He believed the deal was "a serious possibility of being able to raise funds".

Later he told the Serious Fraud Office how banks were informed: "God Himself is still being considered" over the cash emergency - the rescue deal being codenamed "The Hand of God". Mr Vogel earlier insisted that during a series of talks about the cash crisis Kevin Maxwell assured him that the private empire was owed cash by the publicly listed Maxwell Communications Corporation.

Kevin denies conspiring with his father to defraud, using 5.4 million shares in the Scitex Corporation. Kevin, his brother, Ian, and former Maxwell director Larry Trachtenberg all deny a charge of conspiracy to defraud 25 million shares in Teva Pharmaceuticals. The trial continues today.