Prosecution ends its marathon

The Maxwell Trial Day 77
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The Independent Online
The prosecution in the case against Robert Maxwell's sons, Ian and Kevin, accused of swindling the media empire's pension funds, concluded yesterday after a marathon 77 days of court hearings and 69 witnesses.

During more than four months of complicated testimony, prosecutors have led the jury of seven women and five men through a welter of documents displayed on computer terminals and a large television screen.

Both brothers, together with Larry Trachtenberg, a former Maxwell director, are alleged to have conspired to illegally risk the assets of the funds to raise cash for the ailing dynasty.

Halfway through the prosecution case, Judge Nicholas Phillips dismissed the jury from returning a verdict on another Maxwell director, Robert Bunn, after he suffered a heart attack.

During testimony the court heard how Robert Maxwell acted as a one-man investment manager who made decisions for the pension fund alone.

Witnesses described him as an overbearing and domineering tyrant who browbeat his sons and employees.

He was "extremely demanding and doubly so to Kevin and Ian", said Trevor Cook, who administered the Maxwell pension funds. "I wouldn't say that there was a definite atmosphere of fear but we would incur his wrath."

Bankers, accountants and lawyers gave details of Maxwell's private and public companies, together with their spiralling debts and severe cash crises.

"I suspect this was a Guinness Book of Records excess overdraft position," said Robert Brown, a corporate banking executive from Maxwell's main bank, National Westminster.

Other witnesses told about confusion over the ownership of the shares in the Israeli companies Teva and Scitex, which form the basis of the case.

Robert Maxwell's Israeli lawyer testified that Kevin told him he was working on a rescue deal with a mystery investor after his father died.

However, senior executives from Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street firm, laughed about reports that someone was willing to invest pounds 400m to rescue the group.

Mr Richard Lissach QC formally closed the Serious Fraud Office prosecution at the Old Bailey yesterday with an agreed biography of Mr Trachtenberg, a US citizen and father-of-two, who has lived in Britain since 1975.

The court heard that he held degrees in politics and international relations, in which he lectured, but had no "financial or accountancy qualifications".

Together with a partner, Mr Trachtenberg formed Global Analysis Systems in 1985. Mr Lissach described the company as an on-line information service, offering corporations advice on political risk around the world.

The court heard that GAS was bought by Robert Maxwell in 1987. The following year Mr Trachtenberg joined one of the tycoon's companies, London and Bishopsgate International Investment.

The jury is not expected to be in court until Monday next week, when Kevin is expected to give evidence in his defence. The trial continues on Monday.