Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex WW

E-mail to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from His Honour Judge Jeremy Roberts

I am writing, as promised, to confirm our telephone conversation this morning.

For the sake of good order I should start by confirming that Mr Bernard O'Sullivan, Mr Robinson's solicitor, has confirmed to me that he has Mr Robinson's specific instructions that he is happy for me to disclose details of what passed between us in the course of my professional relationship with him: in other words, he has waived the legal professional privilege which would otherwise have prevented me from telling you what passed between us.

As you know, I was instructed by Mr O'Sullivan to advise Mr Robinson in relation to the s 447 investigation carried out by Mr Hugh Aldous, at the request of the DTI, into the affairs of Hollis Industries plc (HI). I was at that time practising as a QC at 9 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE. I retired from practice at the Bar on 20 October 2000 to take up my present appointment as a judge at the Central Criminal Court.

I saw Mr Robinson in conference, with Mr O'Sullivan, on a number of occasions. I also accompanied him and Mr O'Sullivan on one occasion when Mr Robinson attended at Mr Aldous's offices for an interview. In the course of advising Mr Robinson, I examined a large volume of documentation obtained from a number of sources. I understand that all this documentation has been available to you, so I will not take time by giving the details here.

I understand that there are 2 aspects of the matter on which you would like to have my recollection. I remember these matters fairly well, but have taken the opportunity to refresh my memory from papers which I still have in my possession.

(1) Mr Robinson's approach to the enquiry.

Throughout my dealings with him Mr Robinson was adamant that he had not received the sum of ££200,000 which was referred to in a note to the audited accounts of HI for the period 1.1.89-30.6.90. As you of course know, that note referred to Chairman's remuneration of ££200,000, and Mr Robinson was the Chairman of HI at the material time.

Mr Robinson promised, and indeed gave, his full cooperation to the s 447 investigation. In particular, he instructed his solicitors to pursue every possible line of enquiry to unearth documents and other evidence which might solve the mysteries as to

a. What was the destination of the sum of ££200,000 which was apparently paid by Pergamon AGB plc (PAGB) in December 1990 by way of a cheque (number 1751); and

b. What was the origin of the sum of ££200,000 which was shown in the books of Mr Robinson's private company Transfer Technology Ltd (TT Ltd) as having been received in the same month.

Mr Robinson was adamant that these 2 sums were unconnected.

He himself produced documentation which, together with other documents from other sources, enabled him to recall that there had been a proposal in 1990 that a management fee of ££200,000 should be paid either to Mr Robinson or to his company TT Ltd (the documents revealed some understandable confusion as to whether the payment should be made to Mr Robinson or to TT Ltd: either would have been fully justified), and indeed that a stage was reached when this had been agreed subject to final approval by Mr Robert Maxwell. However, Mr Robinson was adamant that Mr Robert Maxwell had refused to approve the payment, so it was never made. In this he was supported by the recollection of Mr Kevin Maxwell.

Despite the very extensive enquiries made by Mr Aldous and by Mr Robinson's solicitors, it became clear that many of the relevant documents (which might have provided definitive solutions to the above mysteries) had not survived, and it appeared that no conclusive answers would ever be possible. Mr Robinson appeared extremely disappointed by this.

2. My advice to Mr Robinson.

Whilst the surviving documentation was incomplete, I did advise Mr Robinson of my fear that Mr Aldous (who is an accountant, and thus accustomed to reaching conclusions based on accounting records) might feel driven to the conclusion - on such documentation as had survived - that the ££200,000 which seems to have appeared in TT Ltd in December 1990 did originate from the ££200,000 paid out by PAGB. As I told Mr Robinson, quite a convincing argument to that effect could be mounted.

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 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.

I have not, of course, seen Mr Aldous's report, so I do not know what conclusions he finally reached on these knotty problems.

I hope this is of some use to you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if I can help further.

4 April 2001

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