Spotlight shifts to former advisers

The Maxwell Trial

JOHN WILLCOCK

The marathon six-month Maxwell trial re-starts today at London's Old Bailey after a two-week summer holiday, just half-way through the prosecution case.

Robert Maxwell's sons Kevin and Ian and financial adviser Larry Trachtenberg deny conspiracy to defraud by misusing pounds 22m worth of shares in the Israeli company, Teva, belonging to the pension fund in an attempt to prop up the ailing Maxwell empire after the founder's death.

Kevin alone denies a similiar charge of conspiring with his father to misuse pounds 100m worth of shares in another Israeli company to pay off Maxwell company debts.

A fourth defendant, Robert Bunn, 47, was dropped from the proceedings before the holiday because his doctors had said he was too ill, following a heart attack, to continue to face the stress of a trial.

The Serious Fraud Office, which has brought the prosecutions, is calling more than 60 witnesses. The next round of witnesses will be former professional advisers to the Maxwell empire, including employees from law firm Titmuss Sainer & Webb of Serjeant's Inn, London.

The trial started on 31 May, presided over by Mr Justice Phillips, and was forecast to last six months. Sources close to the proceedings say it is on target so far. The prosecution case is likely to take until mid- October. The defence case for the three defendants is likely to last several weeks.

The trial is being held in an annexe to the Old Bailey called Chichester Rents, in Chancery Lane. The open office-style court was specially built for large and lengthy fraud trials and was used in the Blue Arrow case in the 1980s. Highly sophisticated computer technolgy is being used to display, on the counsels' request, over 2.5 million documents.

In an unprecedented move, the jury is only having to sit during the mornings. Afternoons are taken up with legal argument in a deliberate attempt to ease the load on the jury.

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