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'Maxwells were ready to sell pension shares'

The Maxwell Trial; Day 59
Robert Maxwell and his son Kevin discussed a sale of pension fund shares several months before the tycoon died, the Old Bailey trial heard yesterday.

Shares in Teva and Scitex belonged to the Maxwell group's pension fund company, Bishopsgate Investment Management (BIM), and were to be sold as soon as the time was right, said Anders Bergendahl of US investment bank Merrill Lynch.

His company was to handle the sales for the Maxwells, but by the beginning of October 1991 - one month before Robert Maxwell's death - complications had arisen and it appeared to Merrill Lynch that the Maxwells were beginning to prefer Lehman Brothers to handle the sales.

Asked if Robert and Kevin Maxwell represented themselves to Merrill Lynch as the owners of the Teva and Scitex shares, Mr Bergendahl replied: "Well, let's put it this way: that they had at least the control over the ownership of the shares."

The question of the name in which the shares were registered had not arisen in his discussions with the two men. At the time of his talks that was not at issue.

He said that he had also discussed with Kevin the possibility of selling off a 20 per cent interest in Maxwell Communications Corporation for up to pounds 300m. The problem was that such a sale would take the family holding in MCC to less than 51 per cent. Kevin told him he was prepared to see the stake fall below that level but he indicated he would have to discuss the matter with his father.

Mr Jeff Highfield, formerly employed in an accountancy capacity by BIM, and who gave evidence on Monday, returned to the witness box after reading a number of documents at the request of Alun Jones, defending Kevin Maxwell.

He agreed with Mr Jones that while he was with BIM there had been a history of trade between the Maxwell companies and the pension funds. Those transactions had always been, to the best of his knowledge, fully settled by 5 April 1990.

They had also been examined as part of the audit by Coopers & Lybrand, which had accepted that the settlement had been properly effected and the assets properly transferred.

He had "drawn comfort" from the fact that it was easier to obtain information about the movement of shares if it was within the same organisation.

Kevin, his brother Ian, and former Maxwell aide Larry Trachtenberg all deny conspiracy to defraud the pension fund by misuse of its investments in Teva shares.

Kevin alone also denies conspiracy with his father over misuse of the pension funds' pounds 100m investments in Scitex.

The trial was adjourned to today.