Maxwell payments traced

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MORE THAN dollars 200m ( pounds 117m) was transferred last year from Maxwell companies and their pension funds to a secretive Delaware company and has now disappeared, investigators into the late Robert Maxwell's empire told the House of Commons Select Committee yesterday.

David Lee, the head of investigations at Price Waterhouse, administrators to Maxwell Communication Corporation, told the committee that bank records obtained by the investigators show that the money was transferred into PH (US) Inc, a Delaware company ultimately controlled by the Maxwell Charitable Foundation in Liechtenstein.

The funds came from MCC, Maxwell private companies and their pension funds. He did not detail the proportions, but in evidence on Wednesday Arthur Andersen, administrators to the private companies, said pounds 25m had been siphoned into PH (US) Inc.

The money has since left PH (US) Inc, whose directors included, until recently, Kevin Maxwell and Sheldon Aboff, a legal adviser to the Maxwell family.

Speaking later, Mr Lee said that the administrators had not yet discovered where the money had gone. They are pursuing inquiries to see whether it can be recovered, but they suspect that large parts of the funds were used to purchase shares in MCC that are now worthless.

Mr Lee said that more than pounds 500m had been taken from MCC before its collapse in December.

In evidence to the Commons committee, the administrators said they were close to formulating a plan to distribute the proceeds of their realisation to the creditors of MCC.

Mark Homan, senior joint administrator of MCC, said PW had recovered pounds 59m worth of assets, but this process had cost pounds 15m in fees to the firm, its lawyers and merchant banking advisers. The largest assets, which are in the US and could be worth as much as pounds 1bn, have yet to be sold.

Mr Homan also invited trustees of pension plans plundered by Maxwell to file with the court to recover assets that they believe MCC owes them.

He said the process had been slowed by the the directors of MCC filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code before MCC was placed in administration.