Report urges DTI action against Murdoch nephew

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The Independent Online
DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry inspectors probing the affairs of Trinity Insurance, which collapsed last year after losing more than pounds 80m, have recommended that legal action be taken against Grant Fowler, its former chief executive and the nephew by marriage of the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The accountants BDO Binder Hamlyn were appointed to investigate Trinity, using powers under Section 447 of the Companies Act. The investigation took more than three months, and a report - which is unlikely to be published - has been passed to the DTI.

It is understood to recommend that - at the very least - action is taken to have Mr Fowler disqualified from being a director of any companies in the UK.

The report is also thought to raise serious questions about transactions between Trinity and companies related to either News International or the Murdoch family, which cost the insurance group more than pounds 7m.

These include the decision by Trinity to make two separate investments in Panfida, the investment group which collapsed last January, owing pounds 32m to Murdoch's News International. Trinity has written off the entire investment.

At the same time, Trinity was involved in a series of cross transactions with Kayarem and Cruden Investments, two Murdoch holding companies that control most of his shareholding in News Corporation, the parent of News International.

The DTI has yet to take any action. Mr Fowler, who is an Australian citizen, is currenty living in Phoenix, Arizona.

He was ousted from Trinity in April last year, shortly after the appointment of the company doctor John Winter as chief executive. Just before Mr Fowler's departure, a winding-up petition was issued against it, and Richard Boys-Stones and Colin Bird of Price Waterhouse were appointed as provisional liquidators.

Price Waterhouse last week sent proposals to Trinity creditors for a scheme of arrangement so that it could fulfil its obligations. In that document, PW said: 'There appear to have been several payments or other transactions by Trinity which might give a liquidator cause to challenge those payments . . . (and) there also seems to be a prima facie case for wrongful trading against at least some of the former directors.'

Trinity is talking to lawyers about the possibility of legal action.