In the Courts: GTech man denies `wrong approach'

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Guy Snowden, chief of the lottery computer company GTech, yesterday rejected suggestions that he broke out in a visible sweat during lunch with Richard Branson because he realised that in trying to bribe the Virgin boss he had "made a wrong approach to the wrong man".

Mr Snowden, under cross-examination in the High Court by George Carman QC, told a libel jury: "I can't tell you that I don't sweat, but ... I am not a big sweater."

Mr Snowden denied allegations that he tried to bribe Mr Branson into dropping Virgin's "all profits to charity" bid. The suggestion was "incomprehensible", he said.

And he denied that he had feared "the glittering prize" of the UK lottery franchise would slip away from him because the Government might opt for the Virgin proposal rather than the Camelot-GTech scheme.

Mr Branson is suing GTech and Mr Snowden for libel over claims that he made the bribery allegation when he knew there was insufficient evidence to support it. In a cross-action, Mr Snowden is suing Mr Branson for making the allegation on a BBC Panorama programme in December 1995.

The case centres on what was said over lunch at the Virgin boss's home in north London, in September 1993.

Mr Snowden denied saying to Mr Branson: "There is always a bottom line. How can we help you, Richard? How can we help you personally."

Even if he had used those words, he did not see how they could be interpreted in any sinister way, he told Mr Justice Morland and the jury.