Two more charged with conspiring to steal from Elders

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TWO more former executives of Elders-IXL, the Australian brewer now known as Foster's, have been charged with conspiring with the group's former chairman, John Elliott, to steal Adollars 66.5m (pounds 30m) from the group.

Peter Scanlon and Kenneth Biggins were accused at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday of being involved in the alleged theft.

The day before, Mr Elliott, a former president of the Australian Liberal Party, was charged with theft from the company along with two other former executives, Peter Camm and Kenneth Jarrett.

The court heard on Thursday that Mr Elliott was the 'linchpin of all the transactions' involving two allegedly fictitious foreign exchange deals between Elders-IXL and firms controlled by Allan Hawkins, former head of the New Zealand company Equiticorp, who is now in jail.

Mr Elliott appeared in court hours after having failed in a High Court battle to prevent action being taken against him by the National Crime Authority, which he said had acted illegally.

The Crown prosecutor, Brian Walters, told the court Mr Elliott had conspired in 1988 to make payments to companies controlled by Hawkins and to disguise them as losses incurred by sham foreign exchange transactions.

'The essential aspect of the conspiracy is the concealment of the true nature of the payments from other directors and the shareholders of Elders-IXL,' he said.

Robert Richter, defending, said the case against Mr Elliott was weak and the evidence would be proved inadmissable.