Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Evidence from other Witnesses

a)  Mr Michael Stoney

55.  Mr Stoney's evidence to the earlier inquiry by the Committee was that following exhaustive searches of the surviving records of both Pergamon AGB and Hollis Industries, no payment was ever made to Mr Robinson in respect of management services provided by him or Transfer Technology Ltd to Lock International. Mr Stoney had therefore come to the conclusion that the item in the accounts of Hollis Industries plc to 30 June 1990 purporting to record a payment of £200,000 for chairman's emoluments was an error.[58]

56.  Mr Stoney agreed a note to this effect with Mr Robinson and his legal advisers following a meeting with them on 6 April 1999[59] (Annex KK).

57.  Subsequently, in November 1999, Mr Stoney swore an affidavit (Annex LL)[60] at Mr Robinson's request in which he stated that he did not understand, and had no recollection of, the handwritten note by Mrs Caddock on Mr Robinson's invoice purporting to record a request from Mr Robinson that the cheque for £200,000 should be made out to him personally.

58.  Mr Stoney's affidavit concluded as follows:

    "My firm recollection is and has always been that Mr Robinson only received one payment, the payment of £150,000 plus expenses from C&S,[61] and that the management fee was never in fact paid.

    I do not recall writing on the invoice "Paid by PAGB Recharge H Industries". I have tried to recollect why I wrote this. It directly contradicts my memory, which is that the management fee was not in fact paid. At this time I now do not now know what caused me to write this note. I understand that a cheque for £200,000 was drawn on the Pergamon AGB plc bank account in December 1990. The cheque was drawn from a different series of cheques to the cheques drawn from the regular cheque run at Hangar Lane.[62] At this time I was extremely busy working on the Mirror Group float. It is quite possible that someone from the accounts department based at Hangar Lane contacted me in January 1991, ie after the month end, and asked who the £200,000 was paid to. Given the extremely hectic atmosphere, it may be that I mistook the £200,000 payment out by Pergamon AGB plc to have been the money which was to be paid for Mr Robinson's services within C&S, and that this caused me to write "paid" on the invoice. This is a possibility, but at this point in time I cannot now be certain."

59.  When, after he had sworn his affidavit, Mr Stoney was interviewed by the DTI investigator, he learned for the first time from Mr Aldous that, amongst the Pergamon AGB files held by the administrators, a computerised cashbook had been discovered containing an entry recording a payment, through cheque no. 001751, of £200,000 for management charges in relation to Hollis Industries. Mr Stoney was also informed by Mr Aldous that a cashbook voucher dated 31 December 1991 had been found which appeared to describe a payment by Pergamon AGB of £200,000 to "Orchards".

60.  When I interviewed him on 3 April 2001 (Annex MM) Mr Stoney told me[63] that on discovering this information from Mr Aldous he expressed his surprise to Mr O'Sullivan that he had not been told before swearing his affidavit that evidence existed that a payment of £200,000 had been made by Pergamon AGB for a purpose linked to Mr Robinson. According to Mr Stoney, Mr Robinson telephoned him shortly afterwards to say that he had assumed that Mr O'Sullivan was going to inform Mr Stoney about the new documentary material. Mr Stoney, according to his evidence to me, told Mr Robinson that he felt he "had been misled". He added that, so far as his affidavit was concerned, if he had known before swearing it what he now knew, "maybe there will be words in there that I would have used differently".

61.  Mr Stoney confirmed[64] that it had not been possible to establish the payee account for the £200,000 payment debited to Pergamon AGB on 11 December 1990 because the cheques and cheque stubs for the relevant period could not be found—even though it was company policy to retain them and the equivalent records for the period either side of December 1990 were still in existence. Mr Stoney thought, however, that the likely explanation was that the cheques and stubs had been wrongly catalogued by the administrators rather than that they had been destroyed.

62.  During our interview, I took the opportunity to question Mr Stoney in more detail about the comments in his affidavit concerning the process by which Mr Robinson's invoice came to be presented and approved. The relevant passage is as follows:—

"MR STONEY: The Orchards invoice was, I subsequently discovered, from Geoffrey Robinson's private house, it was the name of his house; it was an invoice that was approved on the basis of previous conversations between Geoffrey Robinson and myself and subsequently from me on to Kevin Maxwell, about fees that he was going to be paid for services that he had provided, not only himself but also other staff that were employed within Transfer Technology at that time, in assistance within the management of running Hollis Industries.

       MS FILKIN: If I could just be clear about that, from some of the correspondence I have seen it would appear that was a payment that Mr Robinson was requesting, prior to that invoice being drawn up, for services which he had provided himself.

       MR STONEY: Yes.

       MS FILKIN: And some which TransTec had provided, is that correct?


       MS FILKIN: So it did cover both those?

       MR STONEY: Yes.

       MS FILKIN: You approved it? I have seen, I believe it is, your handwriting, is it?

       MR STONEY: It is mine, I do not deny that.

       MS FILKIN: Right. Who, in that case, with that invoice written in the form which you have now been reminded of, having seen it, I assume— who did you expect it to be made out to?

       MR STONEY: It would have been made out to Mr Robinson."[65]

63.  I also sought clarification from Mr Stoney as to whether he approved the invoice for payment before or after Mrs Caddock attached her undated 'post-it' sticker note saying:—

"Geoffrey is not registered for VAT. Proposes make cheque payable to him personally."

Mr Stoney replied: "I would have authorised it before, probably"[66].

64.  The questioning on this point then went as follows:—

       "MS FILKIN: The question I asked was, would you have written this approval on here before your secretary wrote this, or afterwards—ie, would you have known that Mr Robinson had made a different request to your secretary?

MR STONEY: Not necessarily at the time I wrote that, but I would have been aware of that before any payment had been made.

MS FILKIN: So your understanding now—am I right, this is me checking—is that you approved that and you approved it on the assumption that the cheque would be made out to Geoffrey Robinson personally?

MR STONEY: At that time, I would guess I probably did, because there is other correspondence within stuff, within the accounts, when I was writing to people to advise them that this should be included within directors' remuneration. So at that time I would have been aware that this was going to Geoffrey, therefore we should make the provision in the accounts."[67]

65.  I then asked Mr Stoney whether he could recall when he became aware that Mr Robinson had telephoned Mrs Caddock, and that she had attached her note to the invoice:—

"MR STONEY: I can only speculate. I can only tell you ----- Mrs Caddock, Shirley, had worked with me for a number of years. She used to deal with certain things and would tell me, and it is not something— I can only tell you on other experience, I cannot be specific about this, but it is likely she would have told me immediately afterwards.

       MS FILKIN: After when Mr Robinson had said that?

       MR STONEY: Yes, that is right.

MS FILKIN: Yes, that would be normal, would it not? Can you recall, or could you take me through what you think you may recall, about the action you took having had the invoice, having approved it and having had this instruction more precisely about where Mr Robinson wanted it paid, what you would have done then?

MR STONEY: I think there were a number of discussions over a period of months between Mr Robinson and, if you like, within Hollis Industries—because this was my point of contact or his point of contact was with me—where he was saying that fees were going to be paid, or he had agreed or he had talked to this. I would then, as soon as I got this invoice and there had been discussions, have passed it on to Kevin Maxwell. I think there was correspondence to this effect, where I was saying, "Geoffrey has chased for this money. What am I going to do?", and then Kevin was going to speak to his father.

       MS FILKIN: To get that authorisation?

       MR STONEY: Yes."[68]

66.  Later in the interview I pursued with Mr Stoney the circumstances surrounding his decision to write "paid" on Mr Robinson's invoice:—

"MS FILKIN: At some point you wrote "Paid" on that invoice. What do you make of that?

MR STONEY: One of the things that troubles me, and has troubled me all about this, is that I do not write "Paid" on something unless it has been paid.

       MS FILKIN: It would be unusual for a finance director to do so.

MR STONEY: I think this is true, but it is not my nature. I may do many other things, but it is not my nature to write "Paid" on anything. There are a number of... Because I am not too sure. I went to see the DTI who told me many things, because they had questions about this. This was the point I was saying to them, that I was totally at a loss. I had received a number of assurances from Mr Robinson that he had never got the money, that the scope of the work that I could do was extremely limited because of the nature of all the files and everything, and one of the things that I do not do is write "Paid" on something unless it has been paid. It was on a cheque drawn on a series of cheques that was not in a sequence but was run up at Hanger Lane. Can I just explain to you, I was based in the Mirror buildings in Holborn. The accounting and central accounting function for Pergamon AGB and for Hollis Industries was based in Hanger Lane.

MS FILKIN: Yes, I have understood that.

MR STONEY: Okay. Therefore, there were times when we wanted urgent cheques, and therefore there was a cheque book down in London, which was in my office, in case anybody wanted to draw cheques. I can only think somewhere along the line...

       MS FILKIN: And that was one of these cheques?

MR STONEY: I cannot say to you, because nobody has ever found the cheques. This is half the problem, I think.

MS FILKIN: No, but they found the cheques either side?

MR STONEY: They found the cheques... They found the cheques either side?

       MS FILKIN: Well they found the cheques fairly near.

       MR STONEY: I said this to—is it—Mr Aldous?

       MS FILKIN: Yes.

MR STONEY: That I had never understood why I would mark it "Paid" if it was not paid.

       MS FILKIN: Yes.

       MR STONEY: And then he said to me it had been.

       MS FILKIN: So you now know it had been?

MR STONEY: Well, all I can repeat is what—I am sure I am not telling tales. All I can repeat is that having spent an hour with him, he said at the end of it, it had been paid, which is the first time, and there was money received by Transfer Technology a couple of days earlier or around that time, and nobody... That was the first time I ever knew that.

MS FILKIN: I see. But your view is that, whatever, you would not have written "Paid" on that invoice unless it had been paid?

       MR STONEY: That must be."[69]

67.  I questioned Mr Stoney about the Central and Sheerwood board meeting on 7 December. His reply and the subsequent questioning went as follows:—

"MR STONEY: I have been told—Mr Aldous told me—about a conversation I had with Geoffrey Robinson, I think it was at Charterhouse or something, and I said to him, when he said to me, I never recollected a meeting— if you tell me it was on 7th December I will accept your word—I do not recollect it. I do, once prompted by him, remember meeting Mr Robinson, but at that time we met a few times. I cannot be specific that I recollect that, no, I cannot.

MS FILKIN: Did Mr Aldous.... ? Or have you recollected what was said in that conversation that you are said to have had with Mr Robinson, when you have said you had several at that point?

MR STONEY: Mr Aldous said to me that Mr Robinson gave me details of the bank account transfer, which I can only accept. If that was said, that was said. I cannot specifically recollect that, but it is... You know, I cannot say whether it was possible or not. I cannot specifically recollect that at all.

MS FILKIN: Was that, from what you were told in relation to this £200,000 payment—ie for which you had the invoice and which you subsequently wrote "Paid" on—is it your understanding that that bank account number that you were given related to that payment?

MR STONEY: I can only assume. I cannot recollect this conversation, so I cannot tell you that it did or not. I do not know, I really do not.

MS FILKIN: But from what you have been told, that is your assumption?

       MR STONEY: That is right, yes."[70]

68.  Finally, I questioned Mr Stoney as to whether Mr Robinson had ever asked him to be untruthful or to modify a previous statement about either the purpose or destination of the £200,000 payment by Pergamon AGB. Mr Stoney replied:

    "... Mr Robinson has never asked me to lie... He has never tried to put words in my mouth".[71]

b)  Mrs Shirley Caddock

69.  In her oral evidence to me (Annex NN), Mrs Caddock confirmed[72] that the note on the post-it sticker on Mr Robinson's invoice of 24 October 1990 was in her writing. Mrs Caddock told me that she recalled the telephone call from Mr Robinson which led her to make the note, although not "word for word". But she was clear that Mr Robinson had asked for the cheque to be made payable to him: "Looking at what I wrote, it must have been to him personally. If he had asked for it to be made payable to a company, that's what I would have written". Mrs Caddock added that she would not have included the reference to VAT registrability unless Mr Robinson had mentioned the subject.

c)  Mr Kevin Maxwell

70.  In his letter of 22 February 1999 to Mr Robinson's solicitor (Annex OO)[73], which was referred to in Mr Robinson's letter to me of 23 March 2001[74], Mr Kevin Maxwell stated that, to the best of his recollection and drawing on the documents supplied to him by Mr O'Sullivan, he believed that his father had gone back on his earlier agreement to authorise a payment in respect of management services provided to Lock.

71.  In a letter to me, dated 3 April 2001 (Annex PP), Mr Maxwell said that he did not "resile from the information" contained in his letter of 22 February 1999 to Mr O'Sullivan. In answer to specific questions from me (Annex QQ), Mr Maxwell stated that:

    —   he believed both the invoice of 24 October 1990 on Mr Robinson's home writing paper and the handwritten notes on it to be authentic

    —   it would be impossible, in the absence of bank documentation which no longer existed, to identify the beneficiary of the payment of £200,000 which was probably made by Pergamon AGB in December 1990.

    —   he believed that the entry relating to provision for a £200,000 payment for chairman's emoluments in the Hollis Industries management accounts "properly reflected the intent to pay Geoffrey Robinson or his company £200,000 against an agreed fee note" but that "given my father's capacity for change it is possible that the management accounts were published without the payment having been made."

    —   the submission of the invoice of 24 October 1990 reflected Mr Robinson's desire "to obtain remuneration in the context of Central and Sheerwood and Hollis Industries and the substantial work that he had personally and/or his private engineering companies had been engaged in for some years without compensation".

    —   the issue of a payment to Mr Robinson had been discussed between Mr Kevin Maxwell and Mr Robinson on numerous occasions prior to October 1990 and each time Mr Maxwell subsequently raised the matter with his father.

    —   the confusion over which company would pay "probably reflects the fact that Hollis Industries had no surplus cash or facilities, whereas Pergamon AGB did."

    —   the late Mr Robert Maxwell, as group chairman, "used treasuries like that of Pergamon AGB to settle group-wide invoices, with internal book-keeping entries being made to reflect appropriate inter-company credits and debits."

72.  In a further letter to me, also dated 3 April (Annex RR), Mr Maxwell told me that:—

    —   he could not "independently recall any specific meeting on December 7 1990" at which discussions took place concerning a payment to Mr Robinson or Transfer Technology Ltd for services provided to another company

    —   any payment to Mr Robinson "must have been approved/instructed" by Mr Robert Maxwell, although a combination of Mr Stoney and Mr Kevin Maxwell (or any two directors of Pergamon AGB) would have had authority to sign a cheque for £200,000 once Mr Robert Maxwell's agreement to such a payment had been obtained

    —   he had "no specific recollection of the cheque in question"

    —   he believed "on the balance of probabilities" that Pergamon made the payment (of £200,000).

d)  Dr Sami Ahmed

73.  Dr Sami Ahmed, the managing director of Transfer Technology Ltd from 1988 until May 1991, swore an affidavit, dated 25 June 1999 (Annex SS), in which he stated that:—

    —   during the course of 1990 Transfer Technology Ltd carried out certain work for Lock International plc, which at that time was a company ultimately beneficially owned by Maxwell interests; it was proposed that Transfer Technology Ltd receive a management fee of £200,000 for this work

    —   to the best of his knowledge, "neither Transfer Technology Ltd or any associated companies ever received the management fee."

    —   he was unaware "that Geoffrey Robinson ever received this payment himself either direct from Maxwell interests or through Transfer Technology Ltd or its associated companies."

    —   his recollection was that "in the end the management fee was never paid"

    —   as managing director of Transfer Technology Ltd he would "obviously be aware of such a large receipt by the company or its subsidiaries."

    —   during the relevant period Transfer Technology Ltd had been subject to detailed review by independent accountants in preparation for the reverse takeover of what is now TransTec plc; had Transfer Technology Ltd received the management fee, "it would obviously have been highlighted in this process".

74.  I interviewed Dr Ahmed on 11 April 2001 (Annex TT). Dr Ahmed's oral evidence broadly confirmed the contents of his affidavit.

75.  I took up with Dr Ahmed the question of how far he (and Transfer Technology Ltd) expected to receive a payment for management services provided to Lock. The questioning went as follows:—

"MS FILKIN: May I go through it? You are saying that in October and November you did expect at some point to get this fee from Hollis?


MS FILKIN: The figure you had in your mind was about £200,000?


MS FILKIN: Did you see that as a payment that was due to Transfer Technology, or a payment that was due to Geoffrey Robinson personally?

DR AHMED: I think I would have seen it as both. I could not see a line between Geoffrey and TransTec. Geoffrey owns 100 per cent. of TransTec. If this money was paid to him then it means that he put more effort in, more than anybody, because he used to be going there more regularly than me.

MS FILKIN: But were you expecting a fee to come in to Transfer Technology?

DR AHMED: I would not be surprised if it comes to TransTec. I would not be surprised if part of it would be going to Geoffrey, because Geoffrey was doing a lot of service himself, as running the company. This is Lock and people are reporting to him and getting his reports regularly from him from January through that time. Geoffrey was the Chief Executive. He was the one looking after Lock. I would not be surprised if it is paid to us or paid to Geoffrey."[75]

76.  Dr Ahmed did not recall discussing with Mr Robinson the loan from Transfer Technology Ltd to Roll Centre, though he did remember hearing Mr Robinson mention, in early 1991, the need to ensure that any outstanding debts on Transfer Technology Ltd's books were extinguished or that adequate provision had been made to secure their eventual repayment.[76]

77.  Dr Ahmed added that the extent to which he, as managing director, would have been aware of a large payment received by Transfer Technology Ltd would have depended on the route it had followed. As Dr Ahmed put it:—

    "Let us assume Mr Robinson has taken this cheque and he paid it somehow in the United States and got this money to be transferred to come to us as payment of this loan, I would not have known about it."[77]


    "... if it was put in our account direct I think we would have known about it. If it had a little bit of a tour before coming to us this would be a different situation."[78]

78.  When I asked Dr Ahmed whether he believed that Mr Robinson would have been involved in organising the repayment of part of the Roll Centre loan, he replied:—

    "If this money is paid by Roll Centre and it is part of payment of his loan, then Mr Robinson will be aware of this, and he will be doing that".[79]

e)  Mr Roger Davis

79.  Mr Roger Davis, who was finance director of Transfer Technology Ltd between 1989 until he left the company in 1994, swore an affidavit on 29 June 1999 (Annex UU), which for the most part was worded identically to that of Dr Ahmed and which also disclaimed any knowledge of a payment of £200,000 to either Mr Robinson or Transfer Technology Ltd. Mr Davis's affidavit concluded, with reference to the possibility of the management fee having been paid to Transfer Technology Ltd:

    "As finance director of Transfer Technology Ltd I would obviously be aware of such a large receipt by the company or its subsidiaries."

80.  I interviewed Mr Davis over the telephone on 9 April 2001 (Annex VV). I took up with him two particular issues: whether in 1990 a payment was due to Transfer Technology Ltd for management services provided to Lock; and the circumstances surrounding the repayment of Roll Centre's debt to Transfer Technology Ltd.

81.  On the first point, Mr Davis said that, as far as he was aware, there had not been "an outstanding bill for management services from Lock" and he had "no recollection of an invoice being raised for that". He added that, had there then been "exceptional/non-recurring income within our income for that year" (such as a management fee for Mr Robinson's services to Lock International), he would have expected it to show up in the pre-sale long-form[80] report by Coopers and Lybrand on Transfer Technology Ltd—which it had not. This was especially odd in view of the fact that the valuation of Transfer Technology Ltd for the purposes of the sale to Central and Sheerwood was to be based on a multiple of earnings. Mr Davis was emphatic in saying "I stand by the fact that the company did not receive a management fee". Mr Davis added that he had not been aware at the time that Mr Robinson had raised an invoice for £200,000 for services to Lock, with Transfer Technology Ltd specified as the payee; in fact he had learned about this only three years ago (ie in 1998).[81]

82.  On the question of the Roll Centre debt to Transfer Technology Ltd, Mr Davis explained that, if this had been carried forward into the company formed by the merger of Central and Sheerwood plc with Transfer Technology Ltd it would have been tantamount to a loan to a director,[82] since Mr Robinson both owned Roll Centre and was to be on the board of the new plc company (and eventually its chairman).[83]

83.  Mr Davis added that he would have pointed out this potential problem over the merger either to Mr Robinson or Mrs Brenda Price (Mr Robinson's assistant who looks after the family accounts). He presumed that the receipt by Transfer Technology Ltd of a payment of £200,000 on 10 December 1990 was recorded in the company's books as a reduction of the Roll Centre debt because "it must have been funds introduced, either repaid by Roll Centre or from Geoffrey's resources". Asked why a payment received on 10 December 1990 would have been dated 30 December 1990 in Transfer Technology's nominal ledger, Mr Davis said that this might be due to various factors reflecting differing accounting practices. But, as he put it: "I cannot ascribe any importance to the date which may appear in that ledger."[84]

84.  However, Mr Davis was clear that the purpose of the payment was the abatement of Roll Centre's indebtedness to Transfer Technology Ltd and that this was reflected in the way in which it was recorded in the company's accounts. "It was not treated as income in the books of Transfer Technology", Mr Davis told me.[85]

f)  His Honour Judge Jeremy Roberts

85.  At the end of my meeting with Mr Robinson on 31 March 2001, but separate from our tape recorded conversation, he referred to discussions he had had during the course of the DTI inquiry with his legal adviser, Mr Jeremy Roberts QC (now His Honour Judge Jeremy Roberts). It appeared that Mr Robinson mentioned this to me because he thought it enhanced the credibility of his position in denying that he had received, directly or indirectly, a payment of £200,000 in connection with management services to Lock.

86.  Since this information seemed likely to be of relevance to my inquiry I approached Judge Roberts to ask him for his own account of the conversation with Mr Robinson. Mr Robinson agreed to waive his legal professional privilege for this purpose.

87.  In a letter to me, dated 4 April 2001 (Annex WW), Mr Roberts told me that:

    —   throughout his dealings with him, Mr Robinson had consistently denied receiving the £200,000 referred to in a note to the audited accounts of Hollis Industries plc

    —   Mr Robinson gave his full co-operation to the DTI investigation, instructing his solicitors to "pursue every possible line of enquiry to unearth documents and other evidence" which might shed light on a) the destination of the £200,000 paid by Pergamon by cheque no. 001751 in December 1990 and (b) the origin of the £200,000 shown in the books of Transfer Technology Ltd as having been received by them at around the same date

    —   Mr Robinson was "adamant that these two sums were unconnected."

88.  Mr Roberts added that he had explained to Mr Robinson his concern that the DTI inquiry might conclude that the two payments (ie out of Pergamon AGB and into Transfer Technology Ltd) were in fact part of one and the same transaction and that "quite a convincing argument to that effect could be mounted."

89.  Mr Roberts summarised the advice he gave to Mr Robinson as follows:—

    "Mr O'Sullivan and I were at pains to try to explain to Mr Robinson that we did not for one moment doubt his honesty or truthfulness, but I did spell out to him the apparent strength of the surviving documentary evidence, viewed objectively, and I asked him to consider this evidence very carefully for himself, and to consider whether on reflection the explanation might be that the money had indeed gone to TT[86] Ltd but that he had genuinely forgotten it when asked about it some years later (Mr Robinson had, throughout, been an extremely busy man). I told him that, if on reflection he thought that was probably the position, it would be better to say so. He said that he entirely understood the points based on the documents, but that he was absolutely certain that the money had not been paid either to himself or to TT Ltd. He continued to express his wish that every possible step should be taken to get to the bottom of the matter."

Additional evidence from Mr Robinson

90.  After I had completed my interviews with witnesses, Mr Robinson—at his own request—came to see me again on 13 April 2001 (Annex XX). This second meeting with Mr Robinson provided me with an opportunity to seek his response to some of the matters raised by other witnesses and, in particular, the question of the circumstances surrounding the partial repayment of Roll Centre's debt to Transfer Technology Ltd in late 1990.

91.  Mr Robinson acknowledged that the reduction of the Roll Centre loan had been raised as an issue at the time of the preparations for the sale of Transfer Technology Ltd to Central and Sheerwoods. He added:—

    "We had undertaken to reduce whatever it was, whatever part of the Roll Centre debt. I am not sure it is clearly divisible... By 200 [thousand pounds], it just seems a global amount, they wanted to reduce it by 200 [thousand pounds] and I agreed to do that."

    Later, however, Mr Robinson questioned the need to pay off part of the Roll Centre debt before 31 December 1990.[87]

92.  Mr Robinson told me he was uncertain whether he had spoken to anybody else about arranging for part of the debt to be redeemed on his behalf: "... I do not have a clear recollection about this. It was done by Roger [Davis]. There were some documents signed by me".[88]

93.  On the question of the timing of the payment of £200,000 which was received by Transfer Technology and set off against the Roll Centre debt, Mr Robinson drew attention[89] to the fact that the date on which the payment was recorded as received in Transfer Technology's books was 10 December 1990, whereas the date on which a payment for the same amount was debited to Pergamon AGB's account was a day later—11 December 1990.[90]

94.  I again put to Mr Robinson the question as to where the money to pay off £200,000 of the Roll Centre debt could have come from if it was not from the funds realised from the Pergamon AGB cheque for the same amount. I reminded Mr Robinson that his own financial position at the time was difficult; in particular his bank statements showed that he was heavily overdrawn and therefore unlikely to be able to find the necessary sum from within his personal resources. Mr Robinson's reply was:—

    "... I could always find £200,000 from somewhere else, from my own resources. My father would have lent it to me".[91]

95.  Mr Robinson also told me during our second interview that he now regarded the advice given to him by Mr Jeremy Roberts QC (as he then was)—namely that he should consider carefully whether he might have "genuinely forgotten" that the management fee had indeed gone to Transfer Technology Ltd—as "very bad advice". And he added:

    "... I really could not see why I, in a moment of weakness or something like that—stress—should give in and admit to something that is not true".

96.  Mr Robinson undertook to provide me with his own notes on his meeting with Mr Roberts but, to date, he has not done so.[92]

The credibility of certain witnesses

97.  For the sake of completeness, and because of their relevance to the credibility of Mr Stoney and Mr Kevin Maxwell, I must make reference to the findings of the recently published report[93] of the inquiry under sections 432(2) and 442 of the Companies Act 1985 into Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) plc.

98.  In the report Mr Stoney was censured for failing to discharge his duties in a number of respects as a director of MGN. He had previously been censured by the Accountants' Joint Disciplining Tribunal and excluded from membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for "conduct falling below that which was to be expected of a chartered accountant in relation to a loan of £50 million by Bankers Trust to MGN in October 1991.[94]

99.  Mr Kevin Maxwell, although acquitted in the related criminal proceedings arising from the affairs of MGN, was heavily criticised for his conduct by the DTI inspectors. They describe him as bearing a "heavy responsibility" in respect of many of the events relating to MGN. As far as the mismanagement and abuse of the pension funds are concerned the inspectors concluded that Mr Maxwell's conduct was "inexcusable". They made particular reference to the fact that he was complicit in making disclosures to bankers, regulators and others which "lacked frankness". The inspectors quoted Mr Maxwell as justifying this approach in the following words:—

    "So it is being economic with the information. It was not anybody's habit ... not mine ... to tell a banker an outright lie, particularly when there was not the need to."[95]

58  Tenth Report (Session 1997-98), HC 488, p.xxiii.  Back

59  See paragraph 46. Back

60  See paragraph 46. Back

61  Central and Sheerwood. Back

62  The location of Pergamon AGB's accounts department. Back

63  Annex MM. Back

64  Annex MM. Back

65  Annex MM. Back

66  Annex MM. Back

67  Annex MM. Back

68  Annex MM. Back

69  Annex MM. Back

70  Annex MM. Back

71  Annex MM. Back

72  Annex NN. Back

73  See paragraph 41. Back

74  See paragraph 7. Back

75  Annex TT. Back

76  Annex TT. Back

77  Annex TT. Back

78  Annex TT. Back

79  Annex TT. Back

80  See paragraph 37. An examination of the report confirms that no such item is mentioned. Back

81  Annex VV. Back

82  Under sections 330 to 338 of the Companies Act 1985 loans to directors are, subject to certain limited exceptions, prohibited.  Back

83  Annex VV. Back

84  Annex VV. Back

85  Annex VV. Back

86  Transfer Technology Ltd. Back

87  Annex XX. Back

88  Annex XX. Back

89  Annex XX. Back

90  For a possible explanation, see paragraph 120. Back

91  Annex XX. Back

92  Annex XX. Back

93  Published on 30 March 2001. Back

94  Source: Report of the inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under the Companies Act 1985 to investigate Mirror Group Newspapers plc, Volume 2, Appendix 20. Back

95  Ibid, volume 1, p.311; emphasis added. Back

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