Maxwell's son going bust again. But he is still living the high life

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The Independent Online

This autumn the public will have an unexpected glimpse into Kevin Maxwell's stately pile on the banks of the Thames.

This autumn the public will have an unexpected glimpse into Kevin Maxwell's stately pile on the banks of the Thames.

Britain's biggest bankrupt has been forced to rent out Moulsford Manor as the backdrop to the bucolic crime drama Midsomer Murders for an episode entitled, perhaps presciently, Dead In The Water.

Today, the public will be afforded a glimpse into the financial dealings of Mr Maxwell, 45, the youngest son of the disgraced newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell. The Chancery Division of the High Court will hear an application to wind up Meynard Freres, Mr Maxwell's main business vehicle established in the 1990s to carry out property and finance dealings.

For a man who went bankrupt with debts of £400m in 1991, the sum of £18,000, left outstanding from Meynard's attempt to buy up a failing Midland's engineering firm, appears piffling.

Later this month, at Oxford county court, he faces the prospect of being declared bankrupt for a second time. On this occasion he will answer a petition brought by a company called Global Investments over an unpaid debt, said to be worth anything between £300,000 and £1m. Dave Treasure, of the solicitors Beachcroft Wansbrough, which is representing Global, said yesterday it had yet to receive anything in the way of settlement from Mr Maxwell.

If he fails to satisfy them he must appear before District Judge Michael Payne on 26 August to hear the inevitable after already being granted 45 days to come up with the cash.

Any hopes Mr Maxwell had of re-establishing himself as a force in the business world will have finally disappeared. Yet the trappings of wealth seem to have continued long after the money ran out.

His 11-bedroom, six-bathroom home dates back to Elizabethan times, and has sweeping views of the Thames. It is home to the Maxwells and their six children, all educated privately at the £11,000-a-year St Andrew's School in Pangbourne. School fees are said to be paid by relatives and godparents.

The rambling house remains in the name of his wife, Penelope, after it was bought for them by her parents in 1994. Recent attempts to sell it for £2.9m were unsuccessful.

Mr Maxwell has recently been spotted dining at The Wolseleyand at Giorgio Locatelli's Locanda Locatelli in London.

His current predicament dates back to the fateful day in November 1991 when his father plunged overboard from his yacht off the Canary Islands. His death led to the collapse of the Maxwell empire, and the discovery that he had stolen £400m from the Mirror pension fund.

Kevin Maxwell stood trial for his part in the affair, and in 1996 was acquitted, along with his brother Ian, on charges bought by the Serious Fraud Office.

A Department of Trade and Industry report into the scandal in 2001 said he bore "heavy responsibility" for the collapse and was accused in the official report of acting "inexcusably".

His contrition was partial. "I accept my share of responsibility but personally I don't accept the term inexcusable. The only thing I could have done differently was not join the family firm in the first place," he said.

Mr Maxwell was declared bankrupt in 1992, although this was discharged three years later. The Mirror Group pensioners were largely reimbursed in a joint government-City rescue. Mr Maxwell spent some time unemployed and then sought to re-establish himself.

It was the time of the dotcom boom. As chairman of Telemonde, a Nasdaq-quoted company, Mr Maxwell built up an empire in the late Nineties that at its peak was valued, by its owners at least, at £1bn. The companybought large amounts of telecom bandwidth and sold them on to small players eager to join the internet revolution.

It was another financial scandal that was to be his undoing, this time on the other side of the Atlantic with the collapse of Global Crossing in 2002 amid Enron-style Congressional hearings and angry recriminations.

Telemonde filed for Chapter 11 in the United States two years ago with losses of $191m (£105m), according to documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

In a letter to his father in 1988, quoted by Tom Bower in Maxwell, the Final Verdict, he paid tribute to the tycoon. He wrote: "Above all, you have given me the sense of excitement of having dozens of balls in the air and the thrill of seeing some of them land right." It seems the last two of these may be about to fall.