Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Question 180-199)



  180. Given that £200,000 was paid into the Tavistock Square branch of the National Westminster on 7th December, that the same amount was transferred on that day from that branch to the Colmore Row branch in Birmingham, that you and TransTec have accounts at Colmore Row, and that a few days earlier you had telephoned the bank to find out TransTec's account number, is it clear to you that the payments in and out were part of the same transaction?
  (Mr Robinson) No, absolutely not. Can I just say, it is not whether it is a question of whether it is clear to me or not. Again, this is not meant critically, but I have to say it. The Commissioner does not quote the view of NatWest on this.

  181. I am sorry, I was asking your view, not NatWest's—your view.
  (Mr Robinson) No, in that case I am allowed to tell you what the NatWest view is.

  182. I was not asking that.
  (Mr Robinson) May I tell you?

  Mr Bottomley: I do not want to stop you.


  183. Please carry on.
  (Mr Robinson) Thank you very much. It says this. They identified the transfer. They go on to say, "but stress that this credit may be completely unrelated to the cheque which is the subject of your enquiry." Then they say, "We would stress that this credit and the cheque for £200,000 may be completely unrelated." That is the bank, that is not me. You cannot go ahead, on that sort of supposition, to convict somebody of a criminal offence.

Mr Bottomley

  184. I was asking you your view, I was not making an accusation of criminal behaviour, and your answer was "No", was it not?
  (Mr Robinson) It was "No".

  185. Can I turn to the first question I put to you earlier on. Taking the reduction in the debt which Roll Centre owed to TransTec—can you now or at any stage say where that £200,000 actually came from?
  (Mr Robinson) I cannot say with any certainty where it came from, I cannot. That poses a problem for me. May I say, though, it could have been Roger was offsetting my—

  186. I am just asking you if you know where it came from, and your answer was "No"?
  (Mr Robinson) The answer is, I do not— May I say something else?

  Mr Campbell-Savours: Let him give his explanation of what it might be.

Mr Bottomley

  187. I was asking if you knew where it came from.
  (Mr Robinson) No, I do not. I think it may have been an accounting arrangement whereby Roger offset the £200,000 loan I had to the company, towards the company, for the £200,000 that I owed, that was owed, by Roll Centre, to TransTec. I think it is entirely possible that that could have happened. It could have been, I do not know, I just cannot remember, I do not have a clear memory. It could have been paid in by Mme Bourgeois. But what I wanted to stress to the Committee was that the repayment of the £200,000 was not a problem to me. To repeat again, we have here, and will make available to you, a formal legal advice saying that that £200,000 could have been paid out of the proceeds of the sale, and I still would not have incurred any tax on it, which seems to be one of the motivating factors that the Commissioner attributes to me. There would have been no problem at all in repaying that money. How it was done, exactly in those circumstances, it is a long time ago. I do not remember. Roger was handling it. In his own words, he may have mentioned it to me. That is all he said about it, all the time, that is his sum total. So maybe it is surprising I do not, but the most likely thing is that he offset the loan, which has never been repaid as far as we can see from any of the documents, but the essential thing is—which really does, I hope, refute the implications of what the Commissioner says—I would have had no problem otherwise paying off that money.

  188. So that you do not know if the money, that indebtedness, was reduced by £200,000. If it had been reduced by £200,000, you do not know if it was done by Mme Bourgeois, or by your brother, or by your father.
  (Mr Robinson) Not my brother. The reaction of my father was that I could have borrowed the money off him, but I did not need to, because we had this perfectly valid way through the—

  189. So your payment was not by any of your family or friends?
  (Mr Robinson) No.

  190. According to Coopers & Lybrand, you were making arrangements to pay £200,000 into the group. What were those arrangements?
  (Mr Robinson) What is the date of that?

  191. It is the long form report on TransTec from November 1990, in between your invoice of £200,000 and the payment by Pergamon AGB of £200,000.
  (Mr Robinson) That is in April, saying I am making arrangements to pay it off, and yet in December there we have a document saying I have paid it off, so something has gone wrong, in my opinion, between the long form report and the accounts somewhere. If they were referring to it, the arrangements would have been, if that is the case—I cannot say, I am getting into the realm of speculation myself now—to pay it out of the proceeds of the merger, which was entirely possible, entirely.

  192. In the 1998 inquiry I am going to mention various things, and I shall put them together. You did not volunteer information about the negotiations about the fee for management services for Lock. You did not mention the 1990 invoice for £200,000. You did not mention the payment of £200,000 into TransTec, and you did not mention the reduction of Roll Centre's indebtedness to TransTec by £200,000. If you had not forgotten about these, you just thought they were irrelevant to the inquiry, did you?
  (Mr Robinson) Could you run through them one by one again?

  193. If you take the negotiations about the fee for management services to Lock, those are the Annexes we talked about earlier this afternoon.
  (Mr Robinson) I think I would have brought them all to the attention as a matter of principle.

  194. They would be relevant?
  (Mr Robinson) As I say, as a matter of principle I would have brought them all to the attention of the Commissioner. I do not think anybody can question that that has been my approach throughout the whole of the inquiry. I have volunteered things even when they have gone against my interest. I have found things against my interest and volunteered them. That is a mark of how certain I am in all this. Do I think they are relevant? Let us take them one by one. In principle I would have volunteered them. If you can tell me each one, I can tell you whether I think it is relevant or not.

  195. The negotiations about the fee for management services which was the basis of your fee you invoiced in October.
  (Mr Robinson) No, if I may explain, my answer to Sir Gordon was that as non-executive chairman I had had no remuneration, and that was the case, it was a separate management fee totally unrelated to that. But I would have volunteered that. I volunteered everything in this inquiry.

  196. I have one last question on that. The October 1990 invoice—would you have mentioned that?
  (Mr Robinson) Yes, obviously I would. As I started off saying, I have volunteered everything, everything I have found. I have found the damned nominal ledger with the thing in. I volunteered it all. Why? You do not do this if you are in the wrong. I am going to find the cheque now, not because I could have destroyed the cheque and am going through some effort of braggadocio, because of course we know the cheque would not come back to me, it would go back to Pergamon, and we will find out the truth of that when we get the cheque. I think my own lawyer says this—Jeremy Roberts says this quite clearly—that I did not have this money. I am utterly clear in my own mind, settled in my mind. I have been through, as you can imagine, a terrible period with the DTI inspector, and I am still now prepared to go to the utmost lengths to find the one or two ultimate, definite proofs that we need.

  197. Do you believe that in 1998 you gave the then Commissioner and the Committee a full and accurate account of what had happened in 1990?
  (Mr Robinson) As I remembered it then, yes, but if I had had this other information I would have volunteered it.

  198. As a director of Hollis, were you responsible for its inaccurate accounts?
  (Mr Robinson) Well, Maxwell accounts, particularly a small company such as it was—I think I have made a statement to the effect that I do not think I saw those accounts. I think, frankly, I have to stay by that statement. Nor was it really, once it had been bought back by Maxwell and was a Maxwell-owned company, a matter of great concern to me—you will find I have made these statements elsewhere. Of course one should always check and be sure. I did not, but we are quite clear that the £200,000 is an erroneous entry because it says somewhere "Paid in October", when we know the disputed cheque, wherever it went, did not go anywhere until December.

Shona McIsaac

  199. Geoffrey, with this web of companies all sort of linked with you, the merger—this was between Hollis, yourself and Central & Sheerwood—occurred in the last quarter of 1990. When exactly was that?
  (Mr Robinson) The merger?

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