Maxwells may be quizzed by DTI

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The Independent Online
Ian Maxwell has been asked to an interview next week with the Department of Trade and Industry inspectors investigating the flotation of Mirror Group five years ago. It is understood that his brother, Kevin Maxwell, whose second trial was scrapped on Thursday, is also expecting an invitation.

The DTI inspectors suspended their investigation during the first Maxwell trial and during preparations for the second trial, which will now not take place. It had been assumed that once criminal proceedings were out of the way, the report could be published.

The inspectors, Mr Justice Thomas and Raymond Turner, a partner with accountants Neville Russell, have now started the "provisional criticisms" process. This involves sending extracts of the draft report to parties and witnesses criticised in it, enabling them to make representations to the DTI about the criticisms. Two obstacles, however, stand in the way of the publication of the report.

Neither Kevin nor Ian Maxwell, directors in their father's business empire in 1991, have been interviewed by the inspectors. The brothers argued before the first trial that they should not be interviewed while criminal proceedings were outstanding.

Ian Maxwell received a letter from the DTI inspectors earlier this week asking him to attend an interview with them. Kevin Maxwell has not received a letter, but is expecting one.

The DTI refused to comment, saying only that the inspectors were continuing their investigations.

Keith Oliver, of solicitors Peters & Peters, representing Kevin Maxwell, said no approach had been made by the inspectors since the abandonment of the trial on Thursday.

The second obstacle is the strength of Mr Justice Buckley's comments when dismissing the second trial. He said: "I have reached a very clear view that these proceedings serve no further public interest. To pursue them in the face of the jury's unanimous verdict in the first trial would test both the public's confidence and the integrity of the system."

Legal sources suggested yesterday that it would be difficult for the DTI to launch any kind of action, if it were minded to do so, against Kevin Maxwell, after the judge's comments.

The inspectors were asked to investigate "the affairs and membership" of Mirror Group and, in particular, the flotation of 49 per cent of the group's shares, which raised pounds 245.5m from investors in 1991.

One of the key issues the report is expected to focus on is who gave assurances that there would be a "ring fence" separating Mirror Group from other Maxwell interests, whether it was correct to give this assurance and the extent to which the assurance was used in pre-flotation publicity to reassure potential investors in the flotation.