Old Bailey smiles at the lawyer's tale

The Maxwell Trial; Day 67
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The Independent Online

A New York lawyer had an Old Bailey fraud trial jury smiling yesterday as he told how a defiant Robert Maxwell was made to listen to the fable of The Sultan and the Condemned Man.

Robert Katz, counsel to bankers Goldman Sachs, revealed that his company had almost reached the end of its patience in October1991 when millions of pounds, which had fallen due the previous August, had still not been paid.

On 22 October, Robert Maxwell was refused a meeting with Goldmans - he was told that the bankers just wanted their money - and later that day he arrived unannounced at Goldman Sachs in New York.

It was at that point he was told the fable, where a condemned man appeals for one year of life during which he promises to teach the sultan's dog to talk. "In a year the condemned man might die, the sultan might die, or the dog might learn to talk," Mr Katz said. "It was our way of suggesting that we had had a lot of talk, and that it was now time for payment." But the deadlines were never met, and on 5 November 1991, Goldman notified the London Stock Exchange that it had begun to sell shares in Maxwell Communications, held as collateral for loans. The same day, Goldmans heard that Robert Maxwell had been lost at sea.

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

The trial was adjourned to Monday.