Payout to Jean Walker: George Walker's wife receives pounds 340,000 compensation after resigning as director

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JEAN WALKER, wife of the former Brent Walker chief executive George Walker, has been paid pounds 340,000 compensation for loss of office by Brent Walker.

The news comes at a time when it is expected that the Serious Fraud Office is preparing to make a third arrest after its investigation into Brent Walker. Mr Walker faces charges of theft and false accounting covering pounds 12.5m, and the former finance director of Brent Walker, Wilfred Aquilina, faces false accounting charges.

The person to be arrested is believed to be a former senior executive at one of Brent Walker's subsidiaries. Mr Walker and Mr Aquilina may also face further charges.

Mrs Walker resigned as a director, along with her husband, shortly before a crucial shareholders' meeting in December 1991, nearly six months after shareholders rejected a proposal to oust them put by the then chairman, Lord Kindersley. She was a non-executive director for less than two years, though she worked with the company for nearly 30 years.

A source at Brent Walker said the compensation pay off was 'a simple contractual agreement negotiated between her lawyers and our lawyers'.

The payout to came to light ahead of a hearing next Friday that should decide whether Mr Walker is finally made bankrupt for his debts, which exceed pounds 150m. The former boxer fought off attempts to have himself made bankrupt in September but appeared to change his mind earlier this month, when he was turned down for Legal Aid to help him defend himself against charges of theft and false accounting covering pounds 12.5m brought by the Serious Fraud Office. Mr Walker changed his mind again last week, after he was granted Legal Aid. However, the accountant who masterminded his Individual's Voluntary Arrangement, which staved off bankruptcy, Ray Hocking of Stoy Hayward, said that Mr Walker was in 'anticipatory breach' of the IVA. The breach came about because Mrs Walker has said she cannot honour promises to fund three legal actions Mr Walker has started against Brent Walker, claiming pounds 14.7m for loss of office.

Mrs Walker has said she does not want to fund two of the actions until the criminal proceedings against her husband have been completed. In addition, she says she never agreed to fund the third action.

The couple live is a house in the village of Fobbing, Essex, owned by Mrs Walker. She also is believed to have extensive business interests abroad, notably in France and Russia. Her husband has been working for her in Russia, where they are selling cigarette machines.

Despite a pounds 1.5bn refinancing just over a year ago, Brent Walker's finances are still not secure. The group recently brought in a new chairman, Sir Keith Bright, the former head of London Underground, to replace the Scottish company doctor Ken Scobie. Sir Keith is reviewing the way forward.

A statement about a new strategy is expected when the group brings out its full-year results, which are not expected until late next month.

(Photograph omitted)