Ward awaits jury's word: Verdict expected this week on last Guinness defendant after dramatic trial

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The Independent Online
A verdict is expected this week in the trial of Thomas Ward, the Washington lawyer accused of stealing pounds 5.2m from Guinness. Mr Ward, who described himself as Ernest Saunders' 'right-hand man', is the last of the Guinness defendants to stand trial.

The jury is to retire tomorrow morning to consider its verdict.

After five weeks of evidence, the trial took a dramatic turn last Monday when the prosecution asserted that it had new proof that Mr Ward, an experienced American lawyer with his own law firm in Washington DC, had faked a defence document. The defence case was interrupted and Mr Ward recalled to the box five days after he had finished giving evidence.

In Victor Temple's opening speech for the prosecution and for the next 16 days of the trial, it was alleged that Mr Ward and Mr Saunders, the former chief executive of Guinness, had plotted to steal pounds 5.2m from Guinness in a joint enterprise.

Mr Ward was the initial beneficiary of the pounds 5.2m after submitting an invoice for that amount to Guinness. But Mr Temple's allegation that Mr Saunders was also due a share of the spoils was supported by the fact that just over pounds 3m of the pounds 5.2m spent four months on deposit in a Swiss bank account owned by Mr Saunders.

Mr Ward said he had only borrowed the account because he did not have one of his own. Why then, asked the prosecution, did Mr Ward not have any contemporaneous record that the pounds 3m was his? What would have happened if he had been in an accident? Who would know to claim the money in Zurich?

Guinness itself had asked the same, unanswered, questions when it brought civil litigation against Mr Ward in 1987 in an effort to recover its money.

Andrew Trollope QC, Mr Ward's counsel, did not mention a contemporaneous record when he outlined the defence case. Mr Ward himself also remained silent during a full day on the witness stand.

Suddenly, on the seventeenth day of the trial, Mr Ward said he did after all have a contemporaneous record of his right to the pounds 3m. He had written a letter to his brother, Robert, who was executor of his will, and kept a photostat copy of it.

'Where is it?' asked Mr Temple. The letter was very important. It could prove the pounds 3m was his and a big plank of the prosecution case would be lost. Surely he had kept it safe?

'I believe it was in our files of this litigation,' Mr Ward told him, at which Mr Trollope passed across a piece of paper to the prosecution.

Five days later, Mr Ward was recalled to the witness stand and accused of attempting to mislead the jury and the court with a bogus document. One of the bank accounts whose details were listed in the August 1986 letter written by Mr Ward had not been opened until December 1986, Mr Temple said. It just did not tally.

In his summing-up on Friday, Mr Justice Turner reminded the jury of the importance of the document. If they decided it was genuine, much of the prosecution case was lost. If they decided it was false, that would not prove Mr Ward was guilty of theft but would tell the jurors he had not been 'honest and truthful' to them.

(Photograph omitted)

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