Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report


Annex MM

Transcript of interview with Mr Michael Stoney

held on 3 April 2001

MS FILKIN: Thanks very much indeed for coming, Mr Stoney. Perhaps we could start off by me telling you what I am doing, so that you can know how you can help me.

MR STONEY: Okay.

MS FILKIN: I am making an inquiry on behalf of Parliament into what Mr Robinson said to Parliament, through the Standards and Privileges Committee, in 1998. The complaint that I am dealing with is the complaint which says that he misled that Committee, so that is what I have to look at. What happened in companies, what your role was, other than in relation to Mr Robinson, are not my affair; I am not looking at any matter other than did Mr Robinson tell the truth, as he knew it at the time, and was that all to the story.

Then if I could ask you, if I may, would you, for the record, give me your title and a description of your responsibilities in 1991, so that I have got those exactly correct?

MR STONEY: Okay. I had many jobs within the Maxwell Group in 1991. In the area that you are concerned with, in relation to Mr Robinson, I was the Finance Director of Pergamon AGB and I was a Director of Hollis Industries.

MS FILKIN: Thank you. You did not have any role in relation to TransTec?

MR STONEY: No.

MS FILKIN: So that I properly describe you, what is your current title?

MR STONEY: What am I currently doing? I am currently the Commercial Director of a tour operator called The Really Great Holiday Company plc.

MS FILKIN: That is how you got to Florida?

MR STONEY: We sell holidays to Florida, that is where we probably go, that is what we do.

MS FILKIN: Very nice too. Then if I could just go through the detail, so that I can understand it, you will understand, I have come to all this cold, and I am trying to catch up quickly.

MR STONEY: Yes.

MS FILKIN: So any help you can give me I would be grateful for. On what basis did you approve the Orchards invoice? It was an invoice with "Orchards" at the top, 25th October 1990. Having approved it, to whom did you expect at that time that cheque would be made out to?

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?

MR STONEY: Yes.

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.

MS FILKIN: I see.

MR STONEY: Or unless he specified other people, or another company or whatever that he wanted it paid to.

MS FILKIN: The invoice itself, if you recall, had at the top "TransTec".

MR STONEY: Can I have a look at it, please?

MS FILKIN: Yes, of course.

MR STONEY: It would be made payable to that, Transfer Technology. It would not be made payable to Mr Robinson.

MS FILKIN: But your secretary - and I have confirmed with her that she wrote that -----

MR STONEY: Yes, that is right.

MS FILKIN: So what do you take that to mean, what she said?

MR STONEY: So Geoffrey proposed that it be made ----- Sorry, let us just go back, because I have now looked at this. He then said to make it payable to Transfer Technology, no VAT on it. It was a conversation between my secretary, Shirley Caddock, and Mr Robinson, where he said, "Well, as there's no VAT on this, and I'm not registered, you know, I'm not VATable, make it payable to me."

MS FILKIN: I see. So when you came round to authorising it - or had you authorised it before this?

MR STONEY: I would have authorised it before, probably.

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.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

MR STONEY: I think I should also add, me approving it within the Maxwell Group at that time does not necessarily mean that it is finally approved, because an invoice of this size to somebody like Mr Robinson would have needed Mr Maxwell's, Robert Maxwell's, final say-so before any payment was made.

MS FILKIN: What were those authorisation levels?

MR STONEY: There were within the group cards that were issued to all the senior staff, called limits of authority cards, and even if ----- I could actually have signed the cheque for this within my own limits, but because of the nature of the business, because of the nature of who it was, it was a payment to somebody who Mr Maxwell was dealing with. Even though there might have been discussions, I would not have paid that in a hundred years without getting Mr Maxwell's - somebody telling me that it had been approved, which would be either Kevin Maxwell or Robert Maxwell.

MS FILKIN: I see. But in terms of your level of authorisation, you could have paid the cheque without the authorisation from either of those parties?

MR STONEY: Yes, I could in theory have signed the cheque, but we needed two signatures. I would have got Kevin or somebody else to sign it. I could have, yes, but I would not have.

MS FILKIN: Who else could have signed the cheque? Who were the other signatories at the time?

MR STONEY: Oh, my goodness. Mr Maxwell could always sign on his own, Kevin, and there would have been other people within -----

MS FILKIN: Other staff?

MR STONEY: Yes, senior people like the MD of the company, or somebody like that, could have signed it, yes.

MS FILKIN: I see. I think you have answered my next question, but just to be sure about it, can you recall at all when you became aware that Mr Robinson had telephoned Mrs Caddock, and that she had therefore written this on this 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.

MS FILKIN: Yes, I see. When did you first become aware of the entry in the Pergamon cashbook that had written against it "Orchards"?

MR STONEY: 1990-something or other - 8, 9, '98, '99.

MS FILKIN: How did you get to know that?

MR STONEY: Because somebody from Arthur Andersens I think it was somebody in Geoffrey Robinson's office showed me the copies of the documentation that Arthur Andersen had discovered. I might have known it before then, but that is Orchards ----- I could explain that, the reason why that was done in that way, to Mr Robinson, but it was about that time.

MS FILKIN: Why do you think that what was recorded in the Pergamon cashbook was Orchards? That is fairly -----

MR STONEY: What happened was, the voucher is dated 31st December 1991 - the cashbook voucher. After the company went into administration - because I think it was ----- When was it paid? It was actually paid at the beginning of '91, was it not?

MS FILKIN: 1990.

MR STONEY: 1990, fine. When the Maxwell Group went into administration, Arthur Andersen came in to investigate all the books and write up all the books, and a lot of the stuff that they documented was after transactions had taken place, and they were re-writing and re-creating the records as such, because I spent a lot of time with them on the private side of the matter, not re-creating all the records, but re-writing them back in the way that they wanted. By that time I do not think anybody who was involved in the Group who may know about this transaction was still employed by the administrators, so I think they found an invoice, they found the voucher, and just marked it "Orchards" because that was a lead name, because they did not have any other documentation.

MS FILKIN: I see, so you think that was an Arthur Andersen voucher?

MR STONEY: An Arthur Andersen, I think. That is more like an Arthur Andersen way of doing it, rather than -----

MS FILKIN: ----- to whom it really went?

MR STONEY: ---- it went to, yes. Because they found a payment of 200,000, they found this invoice, they found everything else, and then just -----

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.

MS FILKIN: After that you were told by Mr Robinson that he had never received it, so you made an assumption that he had not been paid?

MR STONEY: Yes, and there was no way ----- What I did, when this was first raised I went up to Arthur Andersens, because I assumed at that time - this is now '98 which is seven years afterwards - that I went through all the records that I could find of Hollis Industries, and there was no payment out of Hollis Industries, and that is what I said to him, that I could not find anything. I think subsequently Andersens did further work and they found this stuff within the paperwork of AGB, which I never looked at, it never dawned on me at that time that that was the way it could be done. I think one of the problems is with all these things, as soon as somebody shows you something you suddenly start saying, "Ah yes, that's probably possible", but at the time you just do not think about it.

MS FILKIN: Of course not.

MR STONEY: Because if I had written "Paid" on it, my view is it would have been paid.

MS FILKIN: Right. Just so that I am absolutely careful, your practice as Finance Director would be only to write "Paid" on there if you had got hard evidence that it had been paid; you would not have done it if Mr Robert Maxwell told you it had been paid, or Mr Kevin Maxwell told you it had been paid, or somebody else had told you, "We've paid Geoffrey Robinson"? If somebody had run off with the cheque, is what I am looking for, how would you have satisfied yourself that it had been paid?

MR STONEY: What I think happened, I can only assume, is that somebody up at Hanger Lane phoned me up and said there had been a payment made of 200,000, or -----

MS FILKIN: When you say "somebody at Hanger Lane", one of your staff?

   

MR STONEY: One of my staff would have phoned me up and said, "This payment has gone through", and I would have said, "This is in respect of this" and I would have then written it. Because there were other things ----- I mean, one of the things is, as people have gone through books, they keep finding more and more papers round the place, and because somebody then showed me some journal vouchers afterwards that people had written, and ----- I do not know how to put this. Pergamon AGB was a trading company within the Maxwell empire, and it was run on ----- I do not know how to put this. It was left alone. It was a normal trading company. People did not take £200,000 out of it and then walk away. I mean, it was ----- Whatever happened in the rest of the group, trading companies were left with strict accounting policies, everything was done, you know, the accounting department was independent, it was just tightly controlled.

MS FILKIN: So you were sure that when you were told -----

MR STONEY: If somebody had told me there had been 200,000, there was never any doubt in my mind, and all the staff who were responsible for the accounting with AGB had worked with me for a number of years, and they would tell me if something was wrong.

MS FILKIN: And they were trustworthy, as far as you knew?

MR STONEY: As far as I am concerned. We still keep in contact on an infrequent basis, but we still talk to each other.

MS FILKIN: Nobody else, in those infrequent conversations, has said, "Oh yes, well I can remember the beginning of that sequence"?

MR STONEY: I could not tell you. I have spoken to most of them about this.

MS FILKIN: I am sure. Right. Did you personally draw that cheque - that cheque 001751 - which was debited on 11th December?

MR STONEY: Not a clue. I can honestly say, I cannot remember doing it. I could have done it, but I cannot remember after all this time, and I did not even remember two, three years ago when this was first raised. It is possible I could have done.

MS FILKIN: I understand that there was a C and S board meeting on 7th December. Do you recall that?

MR STONEY: If this is in connection with the £150,000 -----

MS FILKIN: No, no. I am just saying, I understand there was a board meeting.

MR STONEY: Ah, right. Was this -----?

MS FILKIN: I mean, yes, the 150,000 may have been discussed on that day, but the first thing I wanted to establish was did you have any recollection of that board meeting?

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.

MS FILKIN: Thank you.

MR STONEY: My assumption has always been that I have been ----- What I have always been told, and I have had to accept, is that no payment was ever made. What has always concerned me, and at the back of my mind, was why I would write "Paid". When Mr Aldous said at the end of our meeting that it was paid and that we did have this, then it all tended to fit in to -----

MS FILKIN: ----- a different scenario.

MR STONEY: ----- scenario from the one that I had been -----

MS FILKIN: ----- led to believe?

MR STONEY: Yes.

MS FILKIN: I see.

MR STONEY: Put it like this, if I had been aware that a payment, or Transfer Technology had received £200,000 around that date, I think then my views would have been somewhat different, but I did not know, and I had been told completely the opposite.

MS FILKIN: So now, reflecting on what you have been told by the DTI Inspector, and therefore piecing together a different story in your head from the one that you had been led to believe was correct, what do you think the story was?

MR STONEY: I think there were a number of discussions ----- There were a number of discussions about the fee being paid which was in relation to the work that, as I said, Geoffrey Robinson did - whether it was to him personally or not - in relation to the work that he carried out and with staff within Transfer Technology, on the industrial businesses of Hollis Industries; a number of discussions that a fee was agreed. It was, if you like, in typical Maxwellian way, agreed but never ever paid, and Geoffrey I remember, distinctly remember, pressurising me on this for payments to be made. I think a payment was made.

MS FILKIN: Who do you think it was made to?

MR STONEY: That I cannot tell you. I wish I could. I think, I am told, it ended up at Transfer Technology?

MS FILKIN: Do you believe that?

MR STONEY: Oh yes, if that is what I have been told. The trouble is, everything tells you anything. I cannot be specific about this, I really cannot. I wish I could be.

MS FILKIN: Thank you. Thanks very much. I have been informed that the returned Pergamon cheques and cheque stubs for this particular payment are not available, whereas, as I said earlier, those for the periods either side are. Can you shed any light on why that might be the case?

MR STONEY: There is no reason whatsoever that cheque stubs cannot be found. We always retained ----- Part of our standard audit procedures was to retain every single cheque, and those cheques were then sorted into numerical sequence. It was a standard procedure within the AGB group. There is no reason whatsoever why those would not be done, because one was going to have an audit anyway. I cannot remember when it was going to be, but there was, you know, at that time, no reason whatsoever. The only thing I can add to this is that at the time the administrators were appointed - and I know from my own personal experience, because I worked with them for about 18 months afterwards - documents were put in boxes incorrectly labelled, and it was a nightmare to find, because they boxed everything up and then moved all the documents out.

MS FILKIN: I see, before they were properly catalogued?

MR STONEY: Yes. Although they did a lot ----- I mean, there were thousands of boxes they took, and although I ----- There is no reason at all, in anything that we would do, to get rid of cheques whatsoever. I think it is more ----- My view is that it is more that it is somewhere there, somewhere.

MS FILKIN: It is that it is lost?

MR STONEY: But it is lost. So there is no reason at all.

MS FILKIN: At any time during that period can you recollect ever telling Mr Robinson the £200,000 was not going to be paid - ie that you told him that?

MR STONEY: No.

MS FILKIN: We have already discussed that the TransTec accounts show a payment of £200,000 was received shortly after the Pergamon cheque was drawn. Knowing what you do about the size of the TransTec business at that time, do you think that within that business, staff handling a sum of that size would have regarded a payment of that size as unusual and would therefore be likely to recall the source?

MR STONEY: My recollection - and I had only once been to a Transfer Technology factory, as the business was fairly small -----

MS FILKIN: That is my understanding.

MR STONEY: That would be my recollection of it. I would have thought £200,000, at that time, might have been something that people would have noticed. Conversely, part of the problem is within the Maxwell Group £200,000 was not so - was not a large sum.

MS FILKIN: I am aware of that.

MR STONEY: So it is not there.

MS FILKIN: Yes, absolutely. At a meeting - I do not know whether you recall it - with Bernard O'Sullivan and Mr Robinson, on 6th April 1999, you said at that point your guess was that you would have assumed that the 200K going through the bank account related to the invoice. Why did you say that?

MR STONEY: Related to the invoice?

MS FILKIN: Yes.

   

MR STONEY: Because one of the things I would come back to is that 200,000 is paid, I write "Paid" on an invoice; it is too much of a coincidence not to be the same. It does not mean ----- Because I looked, you know, for things. There were obviously payments made within the Maxwell Group of £200,000, but it struck me as likely that the scenario is that Kevin had walked out with it, or could Robert Maxwell have walked away with the money? As I have said to you, it strikes me as highly implausible. That was ----- The one thing about Robert Maxwell. Whatever your views on the Maxwell Group are, or to my knowledge, he never took money for personal benefit, and the same with Kevin.

MS FILKIN: These documents, I am right - that is your handwriting?

MR STONEY: It is not my handwriting.

MS FILKIN: It is not. That is handwriting of an individual called Steven Pilcher.

MR STONEY: A member of the internal audit team.

MS FILKIN: Right, thank you. You will recall that my predecessor, Sir Gordon Downey, made an inquiry into some of these matters in 1998. Did Geoffrey Robinson discuss with you at that time the evidence that he was going to provide to that inquiry?

MR STONEY: He did not discuss with me the evidence that he was going to give. He did discuss, and there were a number of meetings, including I had one at the Treasury with him about this, about what work I had done, or what comfort I could give at that time. A lot of this was done on the basis of the information that I knew at the time and my recollection, coupled with Mr Robinson's assurances that he had never received the money. At that time, when I spoke to him, I was not aware of this document, because I had not found it, and it was only afterwards that that, I think, came to light. All I could recollect - I certainly remember the central issue of the payment, because I know that I could not recollect the £200,000 being paid. But I do recollect the discussions.

MS FILKIN: Am I right in understanding that it was at those meetings that Mr Robinson assured you that he had not received the money?

MR STONEY: That is all I have ever received from Mr Robinson, in connection with either him personally or any of these companies.

MS FILKIN: In that inquiry, Mr Robinson wrote to my predecessor - and that is on the public record, it is in here - and said that you had checked the nominal ledger and cashbooks for Hollis of 1991.

MR STONEY: Yes.

MS FILKIN: That is correct?

MR STONEY: Hollis Industries, yes.

MS FILKIN: That you had not done the same for Pergamon?

MR STONEY: No.

MS FILKIN: For the reasons that you had explained earlier?

MR STONEY: Yes, that is correct.

MS FILKIN: Am I right in thinking you did not check the records of TransTec?

MR STONEY: I would not have access to those. All the records I checked, I went up to Arthur Andersen on two or three occasions, and they got all the boxes down for me where I could find references to Hollis Industries. I went through everything that I could see relating to Hollis Industries. I did not check any of the boxes or any of the documents relating to Pergamon AGB at all.

MS FILKIN: Did you check any of the computer records for any of the companies ..... (end of side A of the tape)

MR STONEY: ..... is the printout. They had a nominal ledger system, and I could not find any trace of payments within that relating to 200,000.

MS FILKIN: That was the Hollis print out?

MR STONEY: Yes.

MS FILKIN: You have taken me through the discussions you had with Mr Robinson when my predecessor was making a parliamentary inquiry. Did you have discussions again after the DTI inquiry was set up, with Geoffrey Robinson?

MR STONEY: I had discussions with him prior to it and a number of discussions, which included a meeting in April and subsequent conversations with him. I have had one telephone conversation after I saw Mr Aldous.

MS FILKIN: What were those discussions about, in relation to that?

MR STONEY: Do you want the one afterwards?

MS FILKIN: All of them.

MR STONEY: Okay. The one afterwards is fairly short. The both of them was that they had this - Mr Robinson had copies of this document - and were going through what I recollected at the time, based on his assurances that he had not received the cash, therefore speculation of what could have happened, my recollection at the time, which has been referred to, of what happened, and a number of areas like that, and the preparation of an affidavit that went to the DTI. That was it, and also it included ----- Afterwards I had a conversation with Bernard O'Sullivan, after I had seen that I felt that I was not aware that the payment had been made. He told me he was surprised that Mr Robinson had not talked to me. I spoke to Mr Robinson, and I said ----- And then Mr Robinson phoned me back within about ten minutes and said he thought Bernard O'Sullivan was going to tell me, and I said I felt I had been misled. I have not spoken to him since.

MS FILKIN: What did you feel about the fact that you had not been told that information that you had been provided with was not full enough?

MR STONEY: Put it like this, I felt ----- I spoke an hour and a half with Mr Aldous, and he was very nice with me. It was at the end of the conversation he told me that payment had been received. The words "I was dumbstruck" were probably an understatement. I was absolutely livid.

MS FILKIN: Because?

MR STONEY: I felt I had been misled totally.

MS FILKIN: Why do you think you had been misled?

MR STONEY: Because, I think, if you go on the assumption that you take somebody's word that under no circumstances, there is no possibility that, either he or his companies have received a payment of £200,000. Now, it may be that the 200,000 that Mr Aldous told me about is a different £200,000, maybe it happens to be coincidence, maybe it is lots of other things. It would have been nice to have known, particularly seven, or eight or nine years after an event, to help you recollect things, that that payment had been made. Because Mr Aldous came out and said, "Do you remember a meeting, this bank account?", and all that was stuff that somebody had refreshed my memory, because as you talk about things you start thinking, "Ah, I vaguely remember that." I got none of that. I was just assured the whole time. I think, to be quite honest, I do not need, I do not want, to be put in the position where I go along in saying things, trusting somebody, and find it is not totally true; or even if it is, that you would at least like to know all the facts, and I did not know all the facts, which is my own fault. I should have, you know ----- I cannot ----- There is no way I could check things, because the records were not available to me, but if somebody else has said that, at least I felt they could have told me.

MS FILKIN: When Mr O'Sullivan or Mr Robinson spoke to you on that day, they told you that Pergamon had made the payment. Did they tell you anything in relation to the TransTec accounts?

MR STONEY: No. I did not ask them. To be quite honest, the conversation with both of them was fairly short and abrupt.

MS FILKIN: Yes. Have you had a discussion with Geoffrey Robinson since I started this inquiry?

MR STONEY: No. Having said that, strangely enough, today, the first time since I saw Mr Aldous, Bernard O'Sullivan rang me and said to me that I might be getting a call from you and did I need copies of my affidavit that I sent to the DTI, or copies of the attendance notes that I had of the meeting of April(?). I told him that I had both of those, and that strangely enough I was seeing you this afternoon. That was the first time I had spoken to him since that time I saw Mr Aldous.

MS FILKIN: There was nothing else in that conversation?

MR STONEY: I just asked him, because I could not remember what Mr Aldous said to me about the payment. He did say to me - I was so annoyed and dumbstruck that this payment had been made, I remember him saying to me that a payment had been made. I asked Mr O'Sullivan just to refresh my memory that a payment was made, and he said, "A payment was made, but it was a couple of days earlier, but it was around about that time", anyway, and that was it, I just left it, I said, "Fine."

MS FILKIN: Mentioning the affidavit, talk me through the circumstances in which you signed an affidavit in those terms.

MR STONEY: I was going to shred all these affidavits that you are looking at, but I did not. There had been discussions about ----- I had met Mr Robinson, and there were other discussions with Mr O'Sullivan during the summer of 1999, I think it was. I was asked by Geoffrey to produce an affidavit for the DTI, which I said I was quite happy to do in terms of whatever I could do at that time. I was asked ----- I went round and tried to explain the background and everything relating to it, and that is what I did. My recollection was - and it had been, as I said to you, my firm recollection - that he had not received the money. I think I would have liked to have ----- If, when I signed or prepared this, they were aware that a payment that could be construed had been paid, I was not aware of that at that time, and maybe there will be words in there that I would have used differently.

MS FILKIN: Re-reading it now, do you think you have sworn an inaccurate affidavit?

MR STONEY: Based on the information I had at that time, no.

MS FILKIN: But re-reading it now, based on the information you now have, do you think you swore an inaccurate affidavit?

MR STONEY: I do not think I swore an incorrect affidavit. I think I would have looked at things in a slightly different way, because I would have made further enquiries of them in relation to the amounts that were received. I still do not know the details of the payment to Transfer Technology that would have made me think somewhat differently about things. If I had been aware of that, yes, in that sense. I did swear it in front of a lawyer as well.

MS FILKIN: Yes. Can I, just for the record tape, ask you the following. Would you be prepared to tell the Committee on Standards and Privileges, on oath, that Mr Robinson has never asked you either to be untruthful or to modify a previous statement you have made about either the purpose or the destination of the £200,000 payment?

MR STONEY: I have no problems swearing on oath that Mr Robinson has never asked me to lie, because he never has done. He has never tried to put words in my mouth. I have gone on my recollection, which is difficult eight years later. I think if you asked me was I fully aware of all the facts from Mr Robinson, my answer to that would be no, I was not aware, because when I saw Mr Aldous I did not know that Transfer Technology had received a payment of £200,000.

MS FILKIN: Thank you.

MR STONEY: If I had have known -----

MS FILKIN: What would you have thought? Knowing the facts that you now know - that a payment went out of Pergamon, that the payment that you thought was going to be made in the name of Mr Robinson, because of some reasons he gave you about that, but a payment for the same sum of money, in a timescale in which it could have been received at Transfer Technology, had been received by them, which nobody is now recalling who it was paid by - what would your view of that sequence of events have led you to think now?

MR STONEY: What do I think? I think that money that went to Pergamon went to Transfer Technology. I think. Now whether it did or not -----

MS FILKIN: Thank you. Could you tell me, you are a skilled financial person, would you like to speculate on why, if that was the case, it was arranged in the way in which it was? What would be the reason for arranging it in that way? What Pergamon had was an invoice with Transfer Technology on the top of it. What your secretary got was a request, which you have confirmed, that it should go to Mr Robinson personally. You now believe that it is that cheque that went into Transfer Technology. What would be the gain for doing things in this less than open way?

MR STONEY: I do not necessarily think it is a less than open way. If Mr Robinson says that this fee is going to be done in this way, and it is agreed, as far as Pergamon is concerned -----

MS FILKIN: ----- there is no issue, is there?

MR STONEY: ----- there was no issue at all for Pergamon. If Mr Robinson had asked us to send it off, you know, wherever, we would have done that.

MS FILKIN: Of course. Oh yes, it was his fee, and you were sending it where he wanted it.

MR STONEY: From Transfer Technology's position, I do not know whether they booked that in as management fees that were receivable to increase the profit or whatever. I cannot speculate on that, I really cannot, because I do not know what happened within the books of Transfer Technology.

MS FILKIN: What did you understand by his comment to your secretary that it was to do with VAT arrangements?

MR STONEY: Well, the point ----- I have got a feeling, the way it came was my raising; that if we were paying a management fee to Transfer Technology, management fees are VATable, therefore that should be charged with VAT. Mr Robinson then said, "Well, I just want the 200,000, so pay it to me." Fine, as far as I am concerned, within the books.

MS FILKIN: Of course, that is his affair.

MR STONEY: That is his affair, and how he accounts for it and how he deals with the tax authorities is his problem. So to me there was nothing particularly in it. If, at the end of the day, for ease of convenience, we routed the money to Transfer Technology into a bank account and then it went to Mr Robinson, that again was his affair, it was nothing to do with us. I have really, you know -----

MS FILKIN: But you have no speculation to make on how that would benefit him?

MR STONEY: I have learnt over the years you never speculate, do you?

MS FILKIN: I have found that most helpful. Is there anything you would like to ask me?

MR STONEY: No, no.

MS FILKIN: What I will do now, if I may, is, when I have had that tape made, I will send you a copy. If I could ask you to check it very carefully and send it back to me with any corrections on it, or any bits that the tape has missed filled in, as soon as you are able - I am very much constrained by the coming election, and I want to get this cleared out the way - that would be most helpful.

MR STONEY: It is a pleasure.

MS FILKIN: I hope that I would get it to you within the next two or three days.

MR STONEY: That is fine, I will turn it round straightaway.

MS FILKIN: Thank you very much for coming, and for your time.

MR STONEY: It is a pleasure.





 
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