Americans continue their astonishing campaign with claim of 'grand conspiracy'

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The Independent Online

When the High Court judge who thought he had resolved Liverpool's tortuous corporate ills said yesterday morning that Tom Hicks and George Gillett were "entitled to be present" at last night's board meeting, it conjured an image of the Americans materialising via a conference-call facility, to play out the miserable last throes of their time at Liverpool. Both would vote against an NESV sale but the two directors they had tried to suspend would be in place to make it an academic exercise.

But non-executive chairman Martin Broughton counselled last week that "you can rule nothing out" when it came to Hicks and Gillett and if the future of a fine and proud football club were not at stake you might even marvel at their latest stunt. They did not terminate their conference call prematurely at the board meeting, as they did at last week's. They are evidently proud to have turned to cowboy country and succeeded, for now at least, in keeping New England Sports Ventures at bay.

The language of last night's legal papers is extraordinary, casting Broughton and his English directors as malign forces operating under the overarching entity which is Royal Bank of Scotland. "The Director Defendants were acting merely as pawns of RBS, wholly abdicating the fiduciary responsibilities that they owed in the sale," reads the legal suit, the capital letters whipping up the mood. "RBS has been complicit in this scheme with the Director Defendants... RBS has informed investors that it will approve of a deal only if there is "no economic return to equity" for Messrs Hicks and Gillett." This is, they say, a "grand conspiracy."

In spicier terms, this is a rehash of the arguments which had proved so empty in court in the past 48 hours, though Hicks also claims that directors Christian Purslow, Ian Ayre and Philip Nash also tried to "enrich themselves at the club's expense" with bonuses of £250,00 to £350,000. Extraordinary stuff, of which more continued last night – Hicks' lawyers claiming that the Texan jurisdiction was valid because it was based on "damage" done to a Texas Corporation.

Lunacy: all of it – but a demonstration that, as any self-respecting fan of the Texas Rangers baseball team Hicks owned will tell you, that the road to removing this pair could prove a long and rocky one yet. The football club, not the bank are the pawns, and its suffering may not be over yet.

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