Maxwells' trial opens with chaos

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The Independent Online
Kevin and Ian Maxwell stood in the dock yesterday at the start of one of the highest profile fraud cases since the Guinness affair. It is estimated the trial will last six months and cost pounds 25m.

Kevin is accused of helping his late father, Robert Maxwell, to cheat pensioners out of pounds 100m in an attempt to save the tycoon's ailing businesses.

Together with his brother Ian, financial adviser Larry Trachtenberg, and finance director Robert Bunn, he is also accused of conspiring to misuse pounds 22m of pension fund shares in a further effort to save the businesses after Robert Maxwell died in mysterious circumstances in November 1991.

All four deny the charges.

Within minutes of the start of the trial yesterday the proceedings dissolved into chaos when the sound system at Chichester Rents, in Chancery Lane, central London, where the case is being heard, failed. Judge Nicholas Phillips adjourned after admitting that both the sound system and the air conditioning needed fixing.

Later, Alan Suckling, for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), spelt out the charges. Kevin, 36, faces one charge of conspiring with his late father to defraud pension scheme trustees and beneficiaries between July and November 1991. Kevin, Ian, 38, Mr Trachtenberg, 42, and Mr Bunn, 47, also deny a similar conspiracy charge in the days following Robert Maxwell's death.

The court was told that two investments made by the pension funds for the companies' employees were in the highly successful Israeli companies, Scitex Corporation and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

Mr Suckling told the jury that between July and October 1991, Robert Maxwell and his youngest son Kevin agreed to use Scitex shares worth pounds 100m to help out companies owned directly or indirectly by Maxwell interests. These companies were "in a perilous position".

To that end the Maxwells used the Scitex shares to meet the debts of the privately-owned companies without paying the pension funds for them. "This was dishonest and a fraud on the pensioners," Mr Suckling said.

Mr Suckling said that after the tycoon vanished from his yacht the position of the Maxwell empire "was desperate". The four accused used shares to borrow money to try to save the group from collapse.

The case continues today.

The trial, page 5