Tycoon 'lent Spurs pounds 1m for Lineker deal'

The Maxwell Trial: DAY 22
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The Independent Online
Robert Maxwell was both a bully and a charmer, one of his senior auditors told an Old Bailey fraud trial yesterday.

A few months before his death the tycoon was said to have lent pounds 1m to Tottenham Hotspur so that the north London football club could meet the final payment for the transfer of the England striker, Gary Lineker, from Barcelona.

Peter Walsh, a senior partner at the accountants Coopers & Lybrand which was auditor and adviser to the tycoon for 19 years, said he knew about the loan in 1991 to Irving Scholar, the club's then chairman. But it was the first time he had heard that the money was to pay Lineker's transfer fee.

However, neither Mr Walsh, nor the defendants and their lawyers were in court yesterday. The defence team had been present when he gave evidence to a locked court several days ago. Mr Walsh had been ill and it was felt that the ordeal of being questioned with both the jury and the press watching might be too much for him. Yesterday his evidence was relayed to the court on film.

Mr Walsh is the first Coopers official to give evidence at the trial of Robert Maxwell's sons, Kevin and Ian, and two former advisers, Larry Trachtenberg and Robert Bunn, who deny conspiracy to defraud. Kevin also denies conspiring with his father to defraud the pension fund scheme by misusing pounds 100m of its shares. Coopers audited all Robert Maxwell's business empire, which consisted of more than 400 companies world-wide.

Mr Walsh also revealed that shortly after Maxwell sold a 49 per cent interest in Mirror Group Newspapers by a public flotation, he was warned by solicitors and accountants of the dangers he faced if his empire continued in business without being able to meet its debts.

The court heard that Maxwell's empire had plunged from being extremely "cash rich" in 1987, 1988 and 1989 to a reversal of the position by autumn 1991 - shortly before his death. The group had made media purchases in America and then had a "jumbo" borrowing facility of pounds 2.6bn and no significant cash resources.

The case continues today.