Kevin Maxwell hid pounds 32m pension switch

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The Independent Online
Kevin Maxwell concealed a pounds 32m share transfer from Mirror Group pension fund officials which was later used to raise a pounds 22.5m loan for a private Maxwell company.

Enquiries by The Independent have established that Kevin was instrumental in transferring the shares away from the funds, but he failed to tell fund administrators for more than 13 months that the shares had gone. It was not until Robert Maxwell died that the men running the funds found out that the shares had been removed. They have still not been recovered.

Details of the transaction were not put before the jury that cleared Kevin, his brother, Ian, and their associate, Larry Trachtenberg, last January. The shares are now the subject of litigation in the French courts.

Sources involved in running the pension funds - who say they feel deceived by Kevin Maxwell - are understood to be disappointed that the Serious Fraud Office did not include details of his role in the affair in the indictments against him.

Our inquiries have established that Kevin Maxwell told neither the group pension funds manager, Trevor Cook, the pensions investment administration manager, Harold Abrahart, nor the pensions department financial controller, Jeff Highfield, that the stock had been removed, and pledged as collateral against a pounds 22.5m loan to Headington Holdings, one of Robert Maxwell's private companies.

All three men believed the 2,228,479 shares in a French investment trust, Euris, based in Paris, had remained in the funds' portfolio.

"He had lots of opportunities to tell us that the shares were gone, but he said nothing, month after month," said a former senior pension fund source. "Each month, a schedule of our shares was produced with the Euris stock still on the list. He knew they were no longer there, but didn't tell us.

"There were also at least three formal meetings of trustees when the misleading schedule was produced, but he said nothing. Finally, when Robert died, we were left believing we held these shares for the pensioners when, in fact, they had been pledged to a bank more than a year earlier."

The disclosures coincide with concerns voiced last week by George Staple, director of the SFO, over the "emasculation" of prosecutors in large fraud cases. A Court of Appeal ruling in the Blue Arrow case required the prosecution to pare down indictments into sets of easily understandable cases. However, when dealing with Kevin Maxwell, Mr Justice Buckley said it should be "unusual" for a second trial to take place.

"The position now," said Mr Staple, "is that in the most complex fraud cases, the indictment, already reduced to the bare minimum, will be split up to produce a series of manageable trials. But it is very unlikely that a second trial will ever take place."

The man in charge of recording the movements of shares to and from the Maxwell pension funds was Harold Abrahart. He drew up a monthly schedule of shares in the funds' possession. For 13 months before Robert Maxwell died, his schedule showed that the Euris shares were still held by the pension funds - because no one told him they had been removed.

Mr Abrahart said: "I should have been told about any sales or transfers of shares from the pension schemes to anybody, be it to another company in-house or to a stockbroker." Asked if he believed Kevin Maxwell ought to have told him the shares had been transferred, he replied: "Absolutely".

It is not known to what extent Kevin kept other trustees informed. They included his father and brother.

Kevin Maxwell was asked to comment via his solicitors, but no reply was forthcoming. However, Keith Oliver, of Peters and Peters said: "Given that Mr Maxwell's conduct in the course of his directorship of Bishopsgate Investment Management Ltd and the Maxwell private companies was examined in the criminal trial, it seems to me unfair and inappropriate for you to be conducting some sort of trial by newspaper."

Fragile pyramid, page 2

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