Thousands 'spent on BR chiefs at Vienna nightclub'

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS of pounds were spent on British Rail executives at a Vienna nightclub by a firm seeking lucrative engineering contracts, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The trips and entertainment across Europe were paid for by an Austrian-based company, Plasser Railway Machinery (GB) Ltd, which supplied equipment to BR.

Michael Worsley QC, for the prosecution, said: 'Many thousands were spent in nightclubs, particularly in Vienna, where the Eve club was often used. Another club in Frankfurt was also frequented. Thousands were sometimes spent in one night.'

Acceptance of the gifts breached BR's code of conduct, drawn up shortly before the corruption. Senior executives were warned of the dangers of bribery.

It warned that it was a criminal offence to accept or solicit any consideration from anyone as an inducement or reward for showing favour to their business. To avoid misunderstandings, offers should be 'politely but firmly' declined and any gift returned, it advised. 'Trifling' gifts such as calendars or diaries were permitted.

The court was told how first-class air tickets to the United States accepted by BR's head of civil engineering, David Currie, went 'wildly' beyond what was intended in the code.

Mr Currie, 66, of Penn, Buckinghamshire, denies accepting gifts. Two senior Plasser executives, Norbert Jurasek, managing director, 51, of Wargrave, Buckinghamshire, and Michael Brooks, company secretary, 64, of Ringwood, Hampshire, deny giving Mr Currie gifts. All three men and the company deny plotting to bribe BR employees.

Although no evidence existed that anyone at Plasser asked for anything in return, 'if you shower someone with gifts it must be obvious to the receiver of the gifts that he is being given them for a reason', Mr Worsley said.

Mr Currie and his wife stayed and dined at a top London hotel courtesy of Plasser.

He and other officials were also entertained regularly at Plasser's corporate box at Twickenham rugby ground.

Plasser spent thousands of pounds celebrating the company's silver anniversary at the House of Commons. The food and drink bill came to more than pounds 6,000 while gifts given to some guests included silver dishes costing more than pounds 10,000 and enamel boxes costing more than pounds 2,000.

The company also sent Sir Robert Reid, BR chairman, bottles of wine as a Christmas gift but he refused anything more substantial.

The result was uncovered by British Transport police when they raided Plasser's offices in Ealing, west London, and discovered confidential information about BR's dealings with one of Plasser's rivals.

Mr Worsley said: 'There is no other sensible conclusion other than that someone stole confidential documents and passed them on to Plasser . . . someone on the civil engineering staff. It is an example of bribery working.'

The case continues.