No Guy Fawkes conspiracy to plunder, says defence

The Maxwell Trial DAY 110
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Had Kevin Maxwell been caught with a jemmy and a blow-torch in the vaults of the Bank of England at midnight it would not prove he plundered the Mirror pension funds, the Old Bailey jury heard yesterday.

Mr Alun Jones QC, in his final defence speech at the marathon fraud trial, said it was nonsense for the prosecution to allege that Kevin and his father and his co-defendants had conspired in the manner of Guy Fawkes and his men.

He told the jurors that many of the 80-odd witnesses called since the trial started in May had their own self-interests to preserve, and much evidence could be ignored.

Mr Jones said Kevin would have liked to call more witnesses in his own defence, but they had declined to come to court.

When he raised cash by pledging shares, alleged by the prosecution to have belonged to the pension funds, he believed ownership of those shares had been transferred by his father to the privately owned Robert Maxwell Group. And he had anticipated that any cash owing to the pension funds by those transfers would be replaced in the same year from disposals both here and in America.

Mr Jones told the court that "the truth screams out" from evidence that bankers knew beneficial ownership of pounds 100m-worth of shares in the Israeli company Scitex had been transferred to RMG from BIM (Bishopsgate Investment Management), which administered the pension funds.

He said the bankers knew and had documents that the court had not seen indicating that the shares had been transferred.

Counsel also commented on the large amount of publicity about the case. "That publicity has been a running sore to us, ... an open wound."

The prosecution claims that when the Scitex shares were pledged and sold to pay private Maxwell company debts, they still belonged to the pension funds and were not the Maxwells' to use as they chose.

Kevin Maxwell denies conspiring with his father to defraud the pension schemes by misusing the shares.

He has told the court his father had shown him an amended fax that stated that the beneficial ownership had been transferred from BIM to RMG, and so he believed the shares were free to be sold or traded.

Kevin, his brother Ian and former Maxwell financial adviser Larry Trachtenberg deny a similar conspiracy charge relating to pounds 22m-worth of shares in another Israeli company, Teva, which were pledged to secure a loan to try and prop up the crumbling Maxwell empire in the days after its founder's mystery death at sea.

The prosecution alleges that these shares, too, belonged to the pension funds and that the three accused knew this and were acting dishonestly when they pledged them.

Kevin Maxwell had told the court that in his last meeting with his father before his death, Robert Maxwell told him that beneficial ownership of the Teva shares had been transferred from BIM. Kevin, therefore, believed he was entitled to use the shares.

Kevin was the only defendant to give evidence. Mr Jones told the jury yesterday: "We argue we have a formidable case on beneficial ownership and we argue we have destroyed the prosecution case." He reminded the jury that they had heard evidence about how faxed documents can fade. He also said the defence had been refused access to certain documents and had received others very late.

Mr Jones continues his closing speech today.