Accountants 'tried to sell BCCI papers'

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The Independent Online
TWO accountants offered for sale sensitive documents uncovered during the investigation into the collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce International, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Mark Braley, 25, of Hayes, west London, and Bernard Lynch, 28, of Forest Hill, south London, conceived the plan after finding out that Michael Barratt, a fellow member of their health club, was a lawyer representing an executive linked to the BCCI investigation, the court was told.

The two men deny conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. But the jury was told that they had pleaded guilty to conspiring corruptly to obtain a consideration from Mr Barratt and that Braley admitted the theft of four share certificates from HM Customs. Braley worked with the Serious Fraud Office probe into BCCI, the court was told.

Timothy Langdale, for the prosecution, said evidence suggested that Said Ali Akbar had been involved in creating millions of dollars worth of non-existent assets using a non-existent commodity dealer. Braley and Lynch, decided to offer documents and other confidential information to Mr Barratt, Mr Akbar's solicitor.

'They thought he would be bound to be interested in such material and would be ready to pay good money because it would assist his client in avoiding prosecution or, if prosecuted, would substantially reduce the effectiveness of the case against him.'

He said the plan was frustrated when Mr Barratt went to the police after the approach, made by Lynch. Mr Barratt was fitted with a concealed recording device and he taped subsequent meetings.

'Once Braley's identity and purpose were revealed to the police investigators, he and Lynch were arrested at the London hotel where the final meeting took place,' Mr Langdale said.

Because of the size of the investigation, the SFO had assembled a large team of lawyers, police, accountants and outside back-up staff. One of them was Braley, Mr Langdale said. Lynch had met Mr Barratt through their membership of the Barbican health and fitness centre in the City. Lynch boasted his clients included Cabinet ministers and he had contacts on the legal and surveillance teams at the SFO.

In fact, he worked for a dairy and his only contact was Braley. He told Mr Barratt he could have 'copies of almost anything within reason' but his contacts were not in it for 'peanuts'. A price of pounds 5,000 was discussed for one file.

Braley had worked for Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte and was drafted into the BCCI investigation after failing his proficiency examinations.

He offered to resign when a document showing the current state of one phase of the inquiry was leaked to the press. But the SFO decided he had 'overreacted', Mr Langdale said.

The trial continues today.