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Maxwell aides to take stand

TWO former directors of Maxwell Communication Corporation, Peter Laister and Basil Brookes, are due to enter the witness box this week in the trial of brothers Kevin and Ian Maxwell, Larry Trachtenberg and Robert Bunn.

Mr Laister, 66, former managing director and later chairman of Thorn EMI, joined the MCC board in 1985 and replaced Kevin as chairman in December 1991, in the wake of the dramatic and still unsolved mystery of the death of Kevin and Ian's father, Robert Maxwell. Mr Brookes was the company's finance director in 1991.

Kevin Maxwell denies two charges of conspiracy to defraud over the alleged use of Maxwell pension fund assets to obtain loans for private Maxwell companies. Ian Maxwell, Mr Trachtenberg and Mr Bunn deny one charge of conspiracy to defraud. Mr Laister and Mr Brookes are being called as prosecution witnesses. They are expected to give evidence on the role of Robert Maxwell in the management of MCC, and in particular the conduct of the company's board meetings.

In January 1992, the Daily Mirror reported that Kevin Maxwell and his father had co-signed a letter assuring MCC directors that money moved out of the company was not being used for illegal purposes. Mr Laister said then: "We asked for certain assurances and received them from Robert Maxwell and his son Kevin.'' He said this was after pounds 250m was transferred from MCC to Maxwell's private companies.

The trial, which began on 31 May, is expected to last six months, partly because the hearings are being confined to four hours a day in an attempt to reduce the burden on the jury.

The hearing ended in dramatic circumstances after only an hour on Friday, when Michael Hill, QC for Mr Trachtenberg, collapsed.The trial is expected to continue on Tuesday.