Kevin Maxwell, whose Telemonde telecoms group is teetering on a financial precipice, has told a court that he has a policy of deleting all documents relating to his business dealings.
The admission came when Mr Maxwell, whose father's media empire collapsed 10 years ago, was challenged to deliver all the relevant information on a deal to redevelop the old Financial Times print works in London's Docklands.
He is being sued, along with property developer Andy Ruhan and a Guernsey Trust, Symposia Holdings, by an Essex businessman, Colin Sullivan.
Mr Sullivan claims that Mr Maxwell conspired with Mr Ruhan and Symposia to cut him out of a deal worth £20m.
The action was launched last February and has yet to come to court.
However, during the "disclosure" stage Mr Sullivan's solicitor, Richards Butler, was astonished by the lack of documentation being provided by Mr Maxwell in relation to the case.
Mr Sullivan found that he could not discover who the beneficial owners of Symposia Holdings were or what their relationship was to Mr Maxwell and Mr Ruhan.
He and his solicitors were told that Mr Maxwell had deleted all emails relating to the deal and disposed of the documentation.
Mr Sullivan applied to the court earlier this month to be allowed to inspect Mr Maxwell's computer to see whether the deleted emails could be retrieved. Justice Douglas Brown ruled in Mr Maxwell's favour, awarding him costs of £40,000.
It is believed that Mr Sullivan may appeal against the ruling, arguing that electronic documents cannot be totally deleted from a computer system.
In a statement to The Independent on Sunday, delivered through his solicitor Peters & Peters, Mr Maxwell admitted that it was his policy to delete all his emails daily and to dispose of all physical documents, save for those that need to be kept for legal reasons, once a month. "It is not my policy to store copies of emails in electronic form beyond the duration of the project to which they refer," he said.
Mr Maxwell was declared bankrupt, owing more than £400m, in the wake of the collapse of the empire run by his father, Robert Maxwell. He was charged with fraud and theft in relation to the disappearance of money from the company and its pension funds, but was acquitted. Some £5.9m of legal aid was paid to fund his defence in the case.
Since his acquittal Mr Maxwell has tried to restart his business career. However, the telecoms company he founded, Telemonde, is now facing financial ruin.
The group has to find $4m (£2.8m), which it has admitted it does not have, to pay a debt to the US telecoms giant Global Crossing, which is due this Friday.
It also owes $1.9m to the Inland Revenue and some $23m of other pressing debts.Reuse content