I am the biggest victim of Versailles crash claims former chief executive Cushnie

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The Independent Online

Carl Cushnie, the former chairman and chief executive of the collapsed trade finance company Versailles who has been charged with fraudulent trading, has vowed to clear his name.

Mr Cushie and three co- defendants were yesterday granted unconditional bail at a hearing at Bow Street magistrates court in London and will reappear at the court on 14 January.

His solicitor Keith Oliver, a partner at the law firm Peters and Peters, told the court that Mr Cushnie "categorically denies the allegations against him".

And after the hearing in a press statement on behalf of his client, Mr Oliver said: "As Mr Cushnie has made clear throughout, he is one of the biggest victims of the fraud perpetrated upon the Versailles Group, if not the biggest. No evidence has been presented to us by the Serious Fraud Office which, in relation to Mr Cushnie, justifies the making of the allegation.

"Mr Cushnie intends to fight to clear his name and is grateful for the many expressions of support he has already received."

On Tuesday Mr Cushnie, once hailed as Britain's most successful black businessman, and Fred Clough, his finance director at the failed finance group, were charged with fraudulent trading following an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office.

Both, according to the SFO, had "surrendered" at Charing Cross police station in London after receiving letters asking them to attend. Lorraine Jones, formerly Mr Clough's personal assistant, was also charged with aiding and abetting fraudulent trading.

The following day a fourth man, John Brown Black of Barnet, north London, was charged with assisting Mr Clough to retain the benefits of crime and helping him to launder the proceeds of crime.

During the proceedings yesterday none of the defendants spoke except to confirm their name, address and date of birth.

Versailles, the former stock market darling, collapsed after a £100m discrepancy was discovered in its accounts.

Trading in the company's shares was suspended on 8 December 1999 and later that month the SFO launched its investigation and the company was placed in receivership. At the time the shares stopped trading, the company, which provided bridging loans, was worth over £600m.

Versailles was used by businesses who did not have the financing necessary to fulfil orders.