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SFO launches third Brent Walker fraud trial

The Serious Fraud Officereturns to the courts tomorrow with its first case since theacquittal of Kevin Maxwell 10 days ago.

Donald Anderson,former finance director of Goldcrest films, will appear in Southwark Crown Court in the second trial of former executives of Brent Walker, the debt-laden pubs and William Hill betting group.

Brent Walker will also learn tomorrow the outcome of a long-running dispute with food and drinks giant Grand Metropolitan, which it claims overcharged it by pounds 200m on the pounds 685m purchase of William Hill in 1989.

Accountant Arthur Andersen, which is acting as arbitrator, will hand down its verdict in a key step towards preparing William Hill for sale .

In a setback for the company last week, the group's founder, George Walker, was awarded pounds 3.2m by a Paris court in his battle to recover pounds 10m lent by his family trusts in France.

Brent Walker has lodged an appeal and gained an injunction preventing Mr Walker winding the company up. This week, however, the former boxer's lawyers will return to Paris to seek expedition of the appeal.

Mr Walker's solicitors argue that the threat of large asset sales by Brent Walker make the affair a special case.

Brent Walker is currently finalising negotiations to sell Pubmaster, its 1,600 strong pub estate, in a pounds 150m plus deal.

A NatWest Ventures led-consortium, involving former Pubmaster chief executive George Brackenbury is understood to be the favoured bidder, though Brent Walker sources say approval for the sale is weeks away.

Meanwhile in court tomorrow, Mr Anderson will face one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice in film and other dealings at the former Brent Walker subsidiary between August 1988 and October 1990.

The prosecution alleges that he falsified documents and misled the SFO, accountants and solicitors over contracts with Brent Walker and money transferred from the group.

In the first trial in 1994, Mr Walker was acquitted on theft charges in 1994, while Wilfred Aquilina, the group's former finance director, was fined pounds 25,000 and given an 18-month suspended prison sentence for supplying false information to accountants tracing pounds 45m missing from the group.

Mr Anderson was abroad at the time of the initial arrests, but returned voluntarily after the verdicts.