Pension fund liquidator to restart claim against Ian

The Maxwell trial: Civil action for tens of millions is back in play as brothers await a decision on outstanding indictments
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Financial Correspondent

The liquidator of the main Maxwell pension fund company is set to contact Ian Maxwell's lawyers to restart a multi-million pound legal claim against him over alleged breaches of his duties as a director of the company.

The liquidator of Bishopsgate Investment Management (BIM), Neil Cooper of Robson Rhodes, has already been paid pounds 500,000 by Ian in an interim payment under the claim in 1993. Mr Cooper then agreed to put the rest of the claim, running into tens of millions of pounds, on ice until the end of Ian's criminal trial. The trial verdict does not affect this civil claim.

BIM collasped at the end of 1991 with debts of over pounds 400m.

The BIM liquidator put Kevin Maxwell into bankruptcy with a claim for pounds 400m. He was automatically discharged from this bankruptcy last September. BIM's liquidators have not received any money from Kevin in respect of the bancruptcy.

The claim is one of a number of loose ends left after the acquittal of Ian and his brother Kevin on conspiracy to defraud charges last week. Both brothers will hear on Friday morning whether the Serious Fraud Office intends to proceed with further outstanding indictments against them.

The Department of Trade and Industry said yesterday that it would not decide whether or not to disqualify Kevin and Ian as company directors until a lengthy inspectors' report has been completed.

The acquittals have not affected the investigation by two independent inspectors into the Mirror group flotation, which the DTI set up on 8 June 1992.

The report is still not completed, and the DTI has refused to speculate on when it might be ready. A DTI spokesman said yesterday: "The department won't take action prematurely."

Normally the DTI would rely on liquidators' reports on directors' behaviour to decide whether there were grounds to disqualify them from acting in the same capacity again. But yesterday the DTI said that the inspectors' report supersedes all other investigations.

The BIM liquidator also has a number of other legal claims; against Credit Suisse for pounds 20m, and against the French investment company Euris and Banque Nationale de Paris for another pounds 20m.

Mr Cooper has also joined a number of Maxwell pension fund trustees, Mirror Group Newspapers and the administrators of Maxwell Communications Corporation (MCC) in claiming a total of over pounds 500m from 15 insurers.

These claims are for breaches of duties by the directors of the Maxwell companies.

With the criminal trial out of the way other administrators are pressing ahead with legal claims. Price Waterhouse, the administrator of MCC, is suing Maxwell's auditors, Coopers & Lybrand, for "many millions of pounds" in the US and UK courts. PW is also suing NatWest, Barclays and Societe Generale for more than pounds 100m in the US courts.