Examination of witness (Question 180-199)|
TUESDAY 1 MAY 2001
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
(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.
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 TransTeccan 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.
187. I was asking if you knew where it came
(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 iswhich really does, I hope, refute the implications
of what the Commissioner saysI 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 caseI cannot say, I am getting into the
realm of speculation myself nowto 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
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 invoicewould 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 thisJeremy
Roberts says this quite clearlythat 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
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 wasI 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 meyou 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.
199. Geoffrey, with this web of companies all
sort of linked with you, the mergerthis was between Hollis,
yourself and Central & Sheerwoodoccurred in the last
quarter of 1990. When exactly was that?
(Mr Robinson) The merger?