Kevin Maxwell, the man whose legal aid has cost pounds 10m, asks for more

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The Independent Online
KEVIN MAXWELL, son of the disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell, is due to face a High Court judge today to explain why he will not co- operate with an inquiry into the flotation of the Mirror Group in 1991.

He has been refusing to meet Department of Trade and Industry inspectors for two years, since he was acquitted of fraud during the collapse of his father's empire in a trial that cost the taxpayer pounds 30m.

Mr Maxwell, who received legal aid in the region of pounds 10m for that hearing, will not co-operate with the inquiry unless the DTI agrees to allow him to be legally represented at the public's expense. In DTI inquiries, those asked to provide evidence are not allowed legal representation, nor may they rely on the right to silence. Furthermore, any evidence they give - which is given not under caution - may be used against them in future prosecutions.

Mr Maxwell and his lawyers - and some civil liberties observers - believe this is unfair. He will argue that he needs to be legally represented, and it is understood he may be prepared to go to the European Court to press his claim.

The inspectors want to question him over promises in the Mirror Group prospectus that its affairs would be "ring-fenced" from the rest of Robert Maxwell's activities. Following the pounds 500m flotation, and the death of the tycoon, Mirror Group had to set aside pounds 156m for losses from its pension fund.

Kevin Maxwell, 39, will argue that payment for any legal representation he may secure should come from the public purse because he cannot afford to pay. When the empire collapsed, he became Britain's biggest ever bankrupt, with debts of pounds 406m.

In September 1995, however, he was automatically discharged and began the task of becoming rich again. Before being discharged, he worked as a consultant to a media company, Westbourne Communications, founded by Jean Baddeley, his father's former secretary.

Once allowed to be a company director again, he joined forces with his brother, Ian, and Anthony Kelly, former head of programme finance at British Sky Broadcasting, to establish a satellite television business in Russia.

His company, Telemonde Development Capital - now split into TDC1 and TDC2 - linked up with RTR, the state controlled television and radio organisation, to launch Meteor, a station which was to have broadcast to 150 million people. However, according to Boris Vishniak, RTR's head, things did not go according to plan.

Mr Maxwell, he said, had the "mentality of a small trader" who wanted to make a fast buck.

"Turnover on the project was millions of dollars and Maxwell was interested in squeezing a fast million," he told the Independent on Sunday last year.

Mr Maxwell is also a director of two other companies, Isisbridge and Elfinport, which are not trading. In company documents he describes himself as "publisher". The TDC companies are registered at Cavendish Square in central London but it is thought that Mr Maxwell operates out of the offices of Westbourne Communications in Great Portland Street nearby.

Mr Maxwell travels regularly to Russia and is understood to have represented the interests of companies working in advertising, steel and telecommunications, as well as television.

He lives in a 16th-century manor house in Moulsford, Oxfordshire, with his wife, Pandora, and their six children. Friends say he likes to keep a low profile, working hard and keeping fit - he shares the same gym as Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Lambton Place Health Club: membership pounds 895 per year plus pounds 250 joining fee.)

Keith Oliver, Mr Maxwell's solicitor throughout the affair, feels passionate about the unfairness of an inquisition without legal representation.

"For [Mr Maxwell] to be required to assist the DTI inspectors without adequate legal representation is grossly unfair," he told The Independent earlier this month.

"I am very concerned if he should be put in a position where he would be compelled to deal with this inspection without adequate legal advice - or indeed without any legal advice, especially bearing in mind [he has already stood trial]."