Norton men on fraud charges

The police charged two men yesterday after a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into the affairs of Norton, the motorcycle manufacturer.

Simon Russell, a former director of Norton, and Rudolph de Mendonca, a former stockbroker, have both been charged with conspiring to defraud Priest Marians Holdings over the purchase of a property in Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

The two men are due to appear at Bow Street magistrates court on 26 June.

The charge sheet alleges that the two men used a Power of Attorney in the name of Katie Chalus, which they knew to be false, to purchase the property from Priest Marians Holdings for £1.85m. According to the charge sheet they said that this was the best price obtainable.

The two men are then alleged to have leased the property for £650,000 and, encumbered by the lease, sold it on to Minty, a furniture company. Minty merged with Norton in 1989 for £1.9m. Mr Russell was chairman of Minty.

Messrs Russell and de Mendonca are then alleged to have concealed the destination of the profit and sale of the lease from Priest Marians.

Investigations at the Serious Fraud Office and a parallel one at the Department of Trade and Industry have centred on the Norton and Minty merger and on a failed 1990 share issue to finance the £8.2 m acqisition of a German company.

Norton's problems have been blamed on its expansion strategy in the 1980s, which was designed to generate funds to develop a new generation of rotary- engined motorcycles.