SFO wins access to Maxwell and Trachtenberg interviews: Details of court decision to be made known next week

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The Independent Online
THE SERIOUS Fraud Office appeared yesterday to have won access to transcripts of the interviews given by Kevin Maxwell and Larry Trachtenberg to the liquidator of the firm managing the Maxwell pension funds.

However, Keith Oliver, Mr Maxwell's solicitor, said it was quite difficult to interpret a decision by the Court of Appeal. 'Whether they have unfettered access to the transcripts or have to hold them subject to some condition . . . won't be known until next week,' said Mr Oliver, a partner in the firm of Peters & Peters.

The SFO is trying to assemble evidence to substantiate the allegations of fraud it has made against Mr Maxwell, Robert Maxwell's youngest son, and Mr Trachtenberg, who formerly worked for Bishopsgate Investment Management, the firm that managed the bulk of the Maxwell company pension funds.

The SFO wants to use its wide-ranging powers to gain access to transcripts of interviews that Mr Maxwell and Mr Trachtenberg gave to Neil Cooper of Robson Rhodes, BIM's liquidator. It was given the go-ahead in a ruling by Mr Justice Vinelott on another SFO case that raised similar issues, involving a finance company called Arrows.

Mr Maxwell, Mr Trachtenberg and the other Maxwell defendants sought leave to appeal against the Arrows decision but this was refused yesterday by the Court of Appeal. However, the court reserved judgment on the Arrows case and will not give the detailed reasons for its decision until next week.

The Arrows decision gives the SFO access to the interview transcripts but prevents it from using the information as primary evidence. Under this ruling, the SFO would be able to produce the information should it be contradicted by other evidence Mr Maxwell and Mr Trachtenberg might give during the course of their trial, which will not start before next year.

Mr Maxwell, who briefly succeeded his late father as chairman of Maxwell Communication Corporation, faces two charges of conspiracy to defraud and six of theft. He is accused of defrauding Swiss Bank Corporation of pounds 55m and Swiss Volksbank of dollars 35m.

Mr Trachtenberg, who was once a lecturer at the London School of Economics, faces two charges of conspiracy to defraud these two Swiss banks, along with four counts of theft.

Ian Maxwell, Kevin's older brother, and Robert Bunn, former finance director of the private Maxwell companies, also face charges.

The Maxwell brothers and Mr Trachtenberg were arrested last June.