Two face pounds 420,000 corruption charge

DAVID HELLIER

The Serious Fraud Office yesterday charged two former executives of Landhurst Leasing with corruptly accepting a total of pounds 420,000 in secret commissions from a motor racing company it helped to finance.

Ted Ball, the former chairman, and David Ashworth, Landhurst's former finance director, were charged at City of London magistrate's court with a total of eight alleged offences contrary to section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

Landhurst Leasing, which was heavily involved in the financing of motor racing teams as well as classic cars, collapsed in 1992 with more than pounds 120m owing to its bankers.

Papers were handed over to the SFO in October 1992 by Arthur Andersen, the company's receivers, who reckoned they had found 10 transactions worthy of consideration by the prosecuting authority.

Mr Ball and Mr Ashworth were accused of taking inducements or rewards from the former managing director and finance director of Middlebridge, a company that used to operate and own the Brabham motor racing team.

It is alleged that the two men accepted inducements in return for Landhurst showing favour to Middlebridge, which has since gone into liquidation. The offences are said to have taken place btween March 1990 and January 1991.

The two men were given bail on condition that they surrender their passports, put up sureties of the value of pounds 25,000 each, reside at their home address and do not talk to a selection of witnesses as stipulated by the prosecution. They were remanded until 27 November.

Terry Venables, the England soccer manager, was interviewed by police during the investigation about a pounds 1m loan made by Landhurst to him before the company's collapse.

When the receivers went to fetch a personal guarantee supposedly left by Mr Venables in the company safe, they found it had been removed.

Mr Venables has consistently denied any wrongdoing in connection with Landhurst. He has also maintained that he obtained the pounds 1m unsecured and denied that he had ever provided a guarantee. After a television programme suggesting that he had provided a guarantee Mr Venables said that his signature had been forged.

The SFO said earlier this year that they had dropped their investigations into him.

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