Writ claims secret payments by Lonrho

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The Independent Online
LONRHO, the international trading group that until recently was engaged in a long-running feud with the Fayed brothers over the ownership of the House of Fraser, is alleged to have made secret payments to a former House of Fraser director in return for damaging information about the stores group.

The alleged payments, which amounted to pounds 555,000 according to a writ lodged yesterday in the High Court, were made to Graham Jones, a former finance director of House of Fraser who left the group in January 1990.

Mr Jones is alleged to have supplied on Lonrho's behalf damaging information on the Fayed brothers to the Bank of England, a House of Commons select committee and bankers to the prestigious stores group, which owns Harrods.

Mr Tiny Rowland, Lonrho's joint chief executive, made peace with the Fayeds last October after an eight-year battle against them during which time he spent millions of pounds trying to prove that they had won control of the stores group by deception in 1985.

Last night, telephoned at home, he was said to have been unable to come to the telephone having just returned from Acapulco, Mexico.

The revelations are bound to strengthen the hand of Dieter Bock, Lonrho's other joint chief executive, who is in the process of trying to normalise affairs at Lonrho by curbing the powers of Mr Rowland and his supporters on the board who have been used to running the company in an idiosyncratic fashion for almost 30 years.

Mr Rowland is understood to have handed papers relating to Mr Jones over to the Fayeds as part of the peace settlement he agreed with them last October.

The House of Fraser group, which is hoping to move towards a stock market flotation in the coming year, is suing Mr Jones for breach of confidence.

The writ says that in 1990 Mr Jones supplied financial information to Lonrho which helped the company in its propaganda war with the House of Fraser.