'Public interest' cited as Crown drops fraud case

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The Independent Online
THREE men accused of engineering a pounds 5.5m stock market fraud walked free from court yesterday after the case was dropped amid bitterness and confusion.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the decision had been taken 'reluctantly' by high-ranking police and legal officials because disclosure of vital evidence was against the public interest.

The disclosure would have been of documents gathered by the prosecution case. Explaining the decision, counsel for the CPS cited three recent court rulings on disclosure, including the Judith Ward case.

One defendant, Peter Rumball, former managing director of Hong Kong-based stockbrokers' Mansion House Securities, said after the 30-minute hearing that the allegations had wrecked his life.

The case at Knightsbridge Crown Court against Peter Rumball, 45, William Butler, 43, and Anthony Lort-Phillips, 48, concerned an alleged fraud involving pounds 5.5m worth of shares in ICI, the chemical group.

The trio were accused of knowingly attempting to sell stolen share certificates - owned by Eagle Star Insurance - through the London Stock Exchange.

The prosecutor Brendan Finucane said no evidence was offered because of 'conflict of public policy elements' whereby disclosure of vital evidence would compromise the public interest. 'This was considered at the highest level of the City of London Police and the highest levels of those who instruct me (CPS),' he said.