Warrant issued for scourge of Coopers

A Bermudan court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mark Hardy, the bankrupt British businessman who is waging a high-profile campaign against the accountancy firm Coopers & Lybrand. The island's Supreme Court has ordered that he show cause why he should not be punished for contempt of court, after he criticised the former Chief Justice Sir James Astwood in an aggressive letter campaign.

Mr Hardy, who is now living in Suffolk, has run a campaign against Coopers, whom he accuses of mishandling the liquidation of his Bermuda-based insurance group, Focus. His language has often been robust in his campaign againstCoopers, whose two insolvency partners, David Lines and Peter Mitchell, were appointed joint liquidators of Focus in 1990 and made Mr Hardy personally bankrupt for £13.5m last year.

The arrest warrant was in response to a Hardy campaign against Sir James, which prompted the Supreme Court to issue a warrant of committal against him last month. Sir James had handed down several judgments against Mr Hardy in relation to the liquidationof Focus. Under the warrant Bermudan officials can arrest Mr Hardy and take him to court to explain why he should not be sentenced for contempt. He has been accused of "scandalising the court" with his comments.

Mr Hardy said on Friday that he is appealing against the warrant. "They're just trying to muddy the waters," he said.

He has carried on a sophisticated nuisance campaign against Coopers & Lybrand in the UK, based on the argument that the firm has broken the rules on the minimum proportion of chartered accountants that any firm must have in its partnership. He has claimed that since Coopers has added huge numbers of management consultancy and other non-chartered accountancy personnel to its partnership, it has broken regulatory rules. Coopers denies this and has been backed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

Currently Mr Hardy is demanding that the merchant banks handling the PowerGen flotation should note in the prospectus that Coopers' status as properly licensed auditors has been questioned. There has been no sign so far that he has been successful.

Coopers had no comment.