Pembroke: Death of BES may snap twig script

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The Independent Online
The death rattle of the Business Expansion Scheme at the end of the month could take with it the scriptwriting career of Rabbi David Goldberg. Rabbi Goldberg, whose brother Jonathan recently defended financier Roger Levitt, has written A Twig from the Cherry Orchard, a Chekhovian-inspired screenplay based on a trip to Russia three years ago.

The film, together with two television dramas, a musical and a documentary were to have been backed by pounds 750,000 from a BES launched in mid-November. But with days ticking away, the venture has yet to reach the pounds 100,000 minumum and the producers face having to send investors' money back.

Could he not tap the congregation at his north London synagogue? After all, regular attendees are thought to include Michael Grade, John Schlesinger, Esther Rantzen and Denis Norden. 'I wouldn't involve my congregation in a speculative venture,' he says.

Producer Carol Gould is not downhearted. 'I'm sure it will go ahead. We've just had a lot of bad luck. Technically, we are past our deadline but people are still ringing up saying they want to be a part of it.'

We are grateful to lawyers Denton Hall for compiling a list of some of the more audacious frauds of 1993. Cases of real or alleged fraud such as Roger Levitt, Terry Ramsden and Asil Nadir may grab the headlines, but some of the following prove to partner Robert Goldspink that fraudsters are becoming more and more ingenious:

The Conservative mayor who was jailed for six months for inventing an election candidate to split the opposition vote in a council election.

The soccer boss accused of bribing a referee with a pounds 1,000-a-time lady of the night before a big game.

The insurance broker arrested over a money laundering scheme involving dollars 50m, 5,500 victims and a fictitious Cherokee Indian tribe whose bogus assets were used to prop up reinsurance companies. And finally . . .

The 500 inhabitants of a Sicilian village with a population of 1200 who claimed invalidity benefit. These include the centre-forward of the local football team who is, apparently, a certified cripple, and the landowner with a passion for sports cars who is officially blind.

Whitbread staff who have overrun their credit card limits in the run-up to Christmas, or are just plain miserable over the state of their lives, the universe and everything, have been given some cheer. The company is to double the staff numbers eligible for its Employee Assistance Programme. The EAP is a kind of in-house Samaritans service where staff with work, financial or marital problems can ring a number in confidence and talk them through.

Whitbread started the service four years ago in its pubs division and is now extending it to workers at Pizza Hut and the rather lively bunch that works at the restaurant chain, TGI Fridays. Does this mean Whitbread staff have more problems than most? 'Not at all. We are just recognising a need,' a Whitbread man says.

Why is it solicitors see money in everything - even a Christmas kiss? This year's greeting card from London solicitors Wright Webb Syrett shows a couple at the end of an evening's festivities eyeing a piece of mistletoe suspended from the ceiling. Standing in wait is m'learn'd friend . . . holding a pile of legal consent forms.

The pine needles may already be dropping on to the living room floor, but Major-General Tony Richardson's year's work is done. As secretary of the British Christmas Tree Growers' Association, the former fixed-wing pilot and parachutist's job is to get people to buy British and stick to the real thing. 'Or they might buy plar-stick instead,' he booms.

Two wet Sundays nearly put a damper on sales this year, but the general is still happy. 'We will have sold about five million trees this year.'

(Photograph omitted)

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