Two charges against Ward are dropped

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THOMAS WARD, the former Guinness director on trial at the Old Bailey, has seen two of the three charges against him dropped due to lack of evidence.

But the main charge of stealing pounds 5.2m from the company remains, and yesterday Mr Ward took the witness stand at the opening of his defence case.

Mr Ward, 53, an American lawyer, had been accused of theft, false accounting and dishonestly procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception.

The prosecution had alleged that in a dishonest joint enterprise with Ernest Saunders, the former Guinness chief executive, Mr Ward submitted a false invoice for pounds 5.2m following Guinness's successful bid for Distillers in 1986. He maintains that it was for advice given during the bid. The invoice was made out to a company based in the Channel Islands called MAC, which was controlled by Mr Ward.

Yesterday, after Mr Ward had been formally acquitted of false accounting, Andrew Trollope QC, for the defence, told the court it was 'nonsense' to describe the invoice as false.

During the prosecution case, he said, it had become clear that important figures involved with Guinness knew Mr Ward used MAC to receive fees. The invoice would inevitably have come under the scrutiny of Guinness's auditors. There was 'no question of this payment going to an anonymous or disguised third party'.

Yesterday Mr Ward said he told Mr Saunders he would continue to work on the bid on the understanding that he 'would be paid and paid well', although no level of payment was discussed. He said Mr Saunders replied: 'That is fine, please do what you can.'

Mr Ward said he envisaged a fee commensurate with those paid to Guinness's other advisers such as Bain, the management consultants, and Morgan Grenfell.

Earlier, Mr Trollope opened the case for the defence by saying the jury was now looking at a 'very changed landscape' from the one described by the prosecution.

He said the 'simple and effective plot', allegedly carried out by Mr Ward with Mr Saunders's help and said to be at the heart of the prosecution's case, had been revealed as 'totally fallacious'.

He urged the jury to take care before condemning the size of the 'success fee' paid to Mr Ward. American lawyers frequently negotiated fees as a proportion of the total value of takeover bids.

Any comparison of the size of the fee with the number of hours worked was 'invalid'. The important element was the relative size and success of the bid itself.

The trial continues today.