Ward to face two charges over SFO inquiry

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The Independent Online

Michael Ward, the former chairman of European Leisure, is due in court today to face two charges of making misleading statements to the Serious Fraud Office.

The charges, which Mr Ward denies, relate to an earlier investigation by the SFO of Mr Ward, who was found guilty by a jury in February of conspiracy to defraud and of theft from European Leisure.

Mr Ward was sentenced to 220 hours of community service and ordered to pay more than pounds 63,000 to European Leisure as compensation in relation to the offences of theft.

The Attorney-General has asked for a review of Mr Ward's earlier sentence after the SFO considered it to be too lenient.

Mr Ward, who is himself seeking an appeal against his conviction, stands accused today of causing false documentation to be made in relation to SFO inquiries into European Leisure and giving a false story while being interviewed under the SFO's Section 2 powers. The case will be heard at Southwark Crown Court, where a jury is likely to be sworn in today.

The original case against Mr Ward arose out of a contested takeover bid by European Leisure of Midsummer Leisure in May 1990. Mr Ward is a qualified accountant, who was previously an assistant director of Morgan Grenfell and a director of international corporate finance at SG Warburg.

The SFO's present charges allege that in March 1993 Mr Ward made a statement that he knew to be false suggesting that in 1989 he had sold furniture to an American design woman, Lynn Russell, who paid him cash. It is further alleged that between May 1992 and March 1993 Mr Ward caused Brook Anderson, a business associate, to arrange for the falsification of a letter intended to show that he sold certain goods including furniture and oil paintings to the value of pounds 89,000 to the same woman.