Tycoon 'sent son on missions to mislead'

The Maxwell Trial; Day 95
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Financial Correspondent

Robert Maxwell used his son Kevin to send "misleading messages" to the City of London, banks and others on dozens of occasions, the Old Bailey fraud trial was told yesterday.

Kevin was being questioned by Alan Suckling QC, for the prosecution, about the ''deliberate lie'' he told to the Bank of Nova Scotia on instructions from his father.

In a series of angry clashes, Kevin denied that he and his father had knowingly put pension funds at risk for their own selfish reasons. He did say that he had misled institutions in 1991, and before that, on the instructions of his father.

Kevin told the court, on his 14th day in the witness box, that he wished he had stood up to his father, but instead did as he was told and later had to apologise to the Bank of Nova Scotia.

Asked if he had told any other lies, he said he had not, but added: "Over the years I was involved in dozens of presentations to City institutions, to banks and all kinds of third parties. At the end of the day, my father was responsible for the script or messages being delivered, and some of the messages were not lies but certainly they could have been seen to have been misleading to the market." Kevin assured the jury that he was an "honest man".

Questioned about pounds 1m worth of shares in the Israeli company Scitex, which the prosecution alleges belong to the pensioners, he insisted he had seen an amended document in which the beneficial ownership of the shares was transferred to the Robert Maxwell Group (RMG).

He said his father showed him the amended document in his office and he believed that Bishopsgate Investment Management, which administered the pension fund, had transferred the beneficial ownership to RMG.

The publisher's youngest son said he only saw the document briefly at a late-night meeting in his father's office, but accepted what he was told about it. Mr Suckling said: "Why? It stank, didn't it?"

In an angry outburst, Kevin Maxwell accused him of using an emotive word, saying it was easy to say that with the benefit of hindsight after the crash.

He went on: "I had implicit faith in my father and I trusted him. I had years of experience of working with him, of his methods, that included transactions involving pension fund assets. It was the ordinary course of business for him and I accepted it."

Mr Suckling said: "This meeting never took place, did it, Mr Maxwell?"

Kevin Maxwell: "Mr Suckling, you have to say that. My defence has not changed for years. I saw the amended agreement. I believe it was valid."

He raised his voice in anger when Mr Suckling asked him what had happened to the document. "I can't believe you are asking me that question. We have been denied access to the papers. We have looked everywhere we have been allowed to."

He accused the prosecution and the Serious Fraud Office of denying him and his defence team access to all the documents.

Earlier, Kevin had told the jury he did not consider the pension fund had been in any way put at risk over the Scitex deal.

When Mr Suckling suggested that any independent pension fund manager would have had to have lost his senses, or been dishonest, to hand over the shares to RMG, Kevin disagreed.

He said that although in 1991, when the shares were sold, RMG was facing liquidity problems and was in "choppy water", it was not in bad shape because it had assets worth many millions of pounds.

Answering Mr Suckling's question, he said: "Did I, for a second, consider we were jeopardising the ability to pay pensions? Absolutely not."

In another angry exchange, Kevin said: "I am telling a consistent story which is the truth. You are a prosecutor who wants to send me to jail and you want me to say something different. I am not going to help you."

Kevin, his brother Ian, and former Maxwell financial adviser Larry Trachtenberg deny conspiracy to defraud the pension fund by misusing shares.

The trial continues today.