People and; Business: BCCI 'stigma' case is Cherie's chance to shine

CHERIE BOOTH, wife of Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, launched the most important court battle of her barrister's career this week on behalf of 950 former employees of BCCI.

The landmark case centres on the employees' claim that they now carry the stigma of once having worked for BCCI, which was steeped in fraud, and as a result nobody wants to employ them.

The "stigma" claim is in turn a reaction to a claim brought by the liquidators of BCCI, Deloitte & Touche, who want the former employees to pay back the loans and mortgages they took out when they worked for BCCI.

The stakes are high. If the employees win, they're set to get a chunk of the pounds 536m the liquidators have set aside against the possibility of a "stigma" victory.

And if Cherie Booth wins, her place in legal history will be assured. Next step the Woolsack?

STEVEN NORRIS, the former transport minister who already juggles his jobs as head of the Road Haulage Association and of the road-pricing think- tank CMTE with his candidacy for Mayor of London, has added another title to his collection.

Mr Norris, who made a pounds 600,000 profit from the sale of bus operator Capital City to FirstGroup this year, has invested in a stake in Integrated Transport Information Services (Itis). Mr Norris also becomes a director.

Itis, based in Coventry, has developed an integrated transport information system that helps you avoid traffic jams.

Also at the event to mark Mr Norris's investment was Stuart Marks, the 32-year-old chairman who holds the majority stake. Mr Marks came to media prominence in 1996 when he was sacked as a director of Park Foods after mounting an unsuccessful buyout plan for the business, which he joined in 1993. The outcome of the dispute was settled out of court earlier this year.

KENNY DALGLISH, footballer and manager, and Jim Kerr, lead singer of Simple Minds, announced they were launching a bid to buy Celtic football club about a month ago. They then held a meeting with Celtic's board. One director asked Mr Kerr: "Would you sign an autograph for my daughter, who is a big fan of your tunes?" At which Mr Dalglish piped up: "She must have a long memory then."

IT MUST be nice to have $500m (pounds 300m) stuffed in your back pocket. Ghaith Pharaon is a global property billionaire who was closely associated with BCCI before it went down. The courts in the Cayman Islands, one of BCCI's bases, recently made a $2.1bn ruling against Mr Pharaon, saying this is the amount he should repay to BCCI's creditors.

Yesterday Mr Pharaon, who now lives in the Saudi port of Jeddah, made an offer through his UK barrister Julian Humfrey to Keith Vaz MP, who represents the UK creditors. Mr Pharaon offered $500m to settle all claims against him. Mr Vaz says he has "passed the message on".

FURTHER EVIDENCE of Mr Pharaon's wealth is offered by his son Laith Pharaon, who runs a power-boat racing team, a not inexpensive pursuit.

Last year Mr Pharaon Junior won the world championship with a team called "Zero Defect". The year before he won in a boat called The Jolly Motor. This year he competed in a boat called Bilba, but lost to a team called "The Spirit of Norway".

MICK JONES, who resigned as managing director of Business Post Group in the summer, has popped up as chief executive of Amtrak, the Bristol- based parcel delivery company, in an institution-led buyout worth pounds 86m. Amtrak was founded in 1987 by Roger Baines and his wife Elaine, and since then they built it into a 330-franchise business using about 1,000 vehicles.

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