Key witness in Guinness trial 'was investigated'

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The former finance director of Guinness, Olivier Roux, whose evidence was "central" to the conviction of Ernest Saunders and three others in the 1990 Guinness trial, was himself being investigated for insider dealing at the time, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

On the second day of the Guinness appeal, counsel for Saunders, the former chief executive of Guinness, claimed that in the last few months details of a Department of Trade and Industry investigation of Mr Roux had come to light.

Jonathan Caplan QC, told the court that Mr Roux's evidence in the first Guinness trial was "central to the prosecution case". He described Mr Roux as "indispensable" and "a witness of truth" who had been given prosecution immunity.

Mr Caplan said Mr Roux had identified Saunders as the "architect, instigator and prompter" of the illegal share-support scheme which led to Saunders, the property tycoon Gerald Ronson and stockbroker Anthony Parnes receiving jail sentences for their roles in Guinness's behind-the-scenes dealings in its pounds 2.7bn takeover of the Distillers company in 1986. A fourth man, consultant Jack Lyons received a pounds 3m fine and was stripped of his knighthood. All four are appealing against their sentences.

Throughout the Guinness trial, Mr Caplan said, Mr Saunders had insisted that Olivier Roux was lying and was attempting to shift blame to his chief executive, namely Saunders. "It was clear that Mr Roux was called as a witness of fact," who stated that Saunders knew of the various payments made to those involved in the illegal Guinness share-support scheme.

However, he told the three judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Taylor, he now had information about a DTI file on Mr Roux which had been compiled at the time of the Guinness investigation. The DTI dossier, according to Mr Caplan, contained evidence of insider dealing by Mr Roux and concerned "the Bells takeover".

With the importance of Mr Roux to the prosecution's case Mr Caplan said the question now had to be answered as to whether or not such information should have been made available to the defence and thus could have been used in the crucial cross-examination of Mr Roux.

Lord Taylor asked Mr Caplan if he had contacted the DTI and insisted on seeing the file on Mr Roux. Mr Caplan said he had not and added: "There may have been material there in relation to Mr Roux and it would have been valuable to have that material in cross examination." The assumption by Mr Caplan was that the existence of the DTI insider dealing inquiry may have affected the credit of Mr Roux as a witness at the Guinness trial.

"It may have been that Mr Roux was not telling the truth to the DTI inspectors," Mr Caplan said. In addition he claimed that there was a file which purported to show that even the DTI inspectors had what he called: "misgivings about the credit of Mr Roux".

The appeal continues today.