Judge orders Maxwell to explain his silence

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The Independent Online
KEVIN MAXWELL, the son of the disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell, was ordered by a High Court judge yesterday to provide an affidavit explaining why he will not co-operate with an inquiry into the 1991 flotation of Mirror Group Newspapers.

However, Mr Maxwell was given leave by Mr Justice Neuberger to seek copies of documents that have been used by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) inspectors in their six-year investigation into the sale of Mirror shares.

Yesterday's hearing in London was the result of an application by the DTI and inspectors, who want him declared in contempt of court for refusing to answer their questions.

He and his elder brother, Ian, were acquitted in January 1996 of attempting to defraud the Mirror pension fund, in a case brought by the Serious Fraud Office. The pounds 500m MGN flotation took place six months before their father's death.

Mr Maxwell argued yesterday that he could not be expected to co-operate with the inquiry without legal representation, which he said he could not afford. TLegal aid - which met the Maxwell brothers' pounds 10m legal costs in the criminal trial - is not available for the DTI inquiry.

Representing himself in the High Court, Mr Maxwell said that the proceedings were "unfair and oppressive". They were an attempt, he claimed, to force him to provide evidence that could be used against him in a future criminal or civil case.

He told Mr Justice Neuberger that he faced "astronomical costs" if forced to pay the legal fees of the DTI and the two inspectors who were appointed to investigate MGN's affairs: John Thomas, QC, now a High Court judge, and Raymond Turner, a chartered accountant.

When Robert Maxwell's business empire collapsed, Kevin became Britain's biggest ever bankrupt, with debts of pounds 406m. In September 1995, he was automatically discharged and has been building up a variety of business interests since.

Philip Heslop QC, counsel for the DTI, said it was in the public interest that the inspectors' long-overdue report on the flotation be published as soon as possible. The judge agreed.

While expressing "considerable sympathy" for Mr Maxwell's position, Mr Justice Neuberger rejected his request to see the inspectors' documents before submitting his affidavit. He was ordered to provide it by the end of this month.

Mr Maxwell said afterwards that the judge's ruling that the issue of the documents be argued at a future court hearing was "a major step forward".