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Vital file loss harms defence

The Maxwell Trial; Day 75

A document crucial to Kevin Maxwell's defence team may have been lost after being badly filed in a warehouse on a "wet and windy corner of the Thames Estuary", a court was told yesterday. The paper was among millions seized from the headquarters of media tycoon Robert Maxwell.

Kevin Maxwell has claimed there was an amended version of a pounds 100m sale agreement between pension funds and the Maxwells concerning 5.4 million shares in Israeli computer software company Scitex.

Alun Jones QC, defending Kevin Maxwell, told the jury at the Old Bailey fraud trial that the missing paper would have shown the magnate's son was entitled to believe his father's empire owned the shares.

Other records seen in court so far show the stock was loaned and ownership remained with pensioners. But Mr Jones showed jurors pictures of the files, which he claimed showed the poor state they were stored in.

John Talbot, administrator to Maxwell's private empire after his death, said that staff at the warehouse, in Rockall, near Sittingbourne, denied the poor filing was their fault.

Mr Talbot told the court that his company accountants, Arthur Andersen, took possession of a "vast amount" of Maxwell paperwork.

Mr Talbot insisted his experience was that papers were correctly filed after being given computer bar codes that could lead to their instant recall to London when needed.

"Rockall [staff allege] that the problems...were caused by various parties given access, who have misfiled certain documentation, who have put documents back in the wrong files or disturbed papers."

Kevin and Ian Maxwell, together with a former Maxwell aide, Larry Trachtenberg, all deny conspiracy to defraud the pension funds by misuse of investments.

The trial continues on Monday, when the prosecution is expected to close its case.