Signature sows more confusion

The Maxwell Trial: 18
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The Independent Online
The mystery of the obliterated signature on a document authorising multi-million-pound transfers continued to confound the Maxwell trial yesterday as witnesses denied knowledge of how it could have occurred.

Peter Laister, a former senior non-executive director who led a rebellion against Robert Maxwell, had earlier denied doctoring with correcting fluid the crucial memorandum that gave details of transfers from Maxwell Communications Corporation to private Maxwell companies.

Defence counsel had suggested that Mr Laister, who briefly took over as chairman of MCC before the group collapsed, wanted to "save his skin" by hiding the fact he had authorised the transfers. Denying the charge, Mr Laister suggested someone else may have innocently removed his signature, possibly Basil Brookes, the former finance director.

Under cross-examination, Mr Brookes said he had not applied correcting fluid and had no idea who had.

This document, one of a large collection of papers seized by the Serious Fraud Office, was a copy of a letter to Citibank authorising a foreign exchange transaction to convert $145m to sterling and to disperse the proceeds. Almost pounds 40m ended up with the two private Maxwell companies.

Kevin Maxwell, 36, his brother Ian, 39, and two former financial advisers, Larry Trachtenberg, 42 and Robert Bunn, 47, deny conspiracy to defraud the trustees and beneficiaries of the Maxwell group's pension fund by misusing pounds 22m of shares in the Israeli company Teva to prop up the ailing Maxwell empire after its founder's death in November 1991. Kevin denies a similar charge of conspiring with his father to misuse pounds 100m of shares in Scitex to pay private Maxwell company debts.The trial continues on Monday.

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