Regent Inns in blackmail case

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The Independent Online
AN INVESTIGATIVE accountant will appear in court tomorrow charged with the attempted blackmail of Regent Inns, the pub group which issued a profits warning last week, and Clive Watson, its former finance director.

Stephen Wright, 46, is charged with making an "unwarranted demand of money in exchange for silence in respect of alleged professional misconduct from Clive Watson and Regent Inns plc with menaces".

The timing is embarrassing for Regent, whose shares fell more than 40 per cent last week on a warning which spoke of "inconsistencies and inaccuracies" in its accounts.

A spokesman for Mr Watson said yesterday: "This is completely unconnected to Regent Inns' business. It is in the hands of the police who were called in by Clive Watson and David Franks [Regent's chief executive] on receiving the threat of blackmail." The subject of the alleged blackmail is believed to pre-date his involvement with Regent Inns.

Mr Watson, who left Regent Inns in March, last week criticised Regent for appearing to blame him for the warning. He said the company's current- year budgets were approved by the executive board.

Mr Wright was arrested by City of London police in March.

Regent Inns shares, which hit 388p earlier this year, closed at 193.5p yesterday, up 13.5p on the day.