Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex XX

Transcript of interview with Mr Geoffrey Robinson MP and Mr Bernard O'Sullivan

held on 13 April 2001

(As corrected by Geoffrey Robinson and Elizabeth Filkin)

MS FILKIN: What was owed by Roll Centre at the beginning of December 1990 and from what did the debt arise?

MR ROBINSON: (Tape starts in the middle of a sentence) ... and they are from the Longform Report prepared in November and December 1990 for Coopers & Lybrand. There are several things I can say on this. One was that the management fee, had it been paid, would never have come into the calculation of the value of the company; that was always agreed to be extra. In that sense, while the Longform Report was going ahead, with all the complications, a lot of work for Sami (Ahmed), a lot of work for Roger (Davis), and that was where the main work was being done on it, it was thought that bringing it in there was a complication at any stage until it was either paid, which we have had to do, or the merger was completed. There really was no point in doing it, and that is why. It was also something that was extraneous to the main-line TransTec activities; we had never done a consultancy before. The work done there was very similar to the work we were doing; we took people from engineering and marketing and sent them up to Oldham. I went up there myself and supervised it as best I could, or gave them priorities on several occasions as best I could. So it did not belong to the Longform Report and was kept out of it. Now "Did you inform Roger Davis if it was anticipated or if he raised the invoice?" Certainly I think he knew that it was anticipated, but we had agreed to keep it out of the calculation; fine, when it comes it is wonderful, and he knew that. I think you can check, I cannot remember completely, but I think he mentions it in his affidavit, that he knew that there was a -----

MS FILKIN: Yes, he does. He says that he did not know, but the

file ----

MR ROBINSON: I see. I am so sorry.

MS FILKIN: No, that is all right.

MR ROBINSON: He did not know -----

MR O'SULLIVAN: Davis says, from memory - I do not have it with me regrettably - and maybe we can find it, but his affidavit says that a management fee was due, £200,000.

MS FILKIN: Roger Davis?

MR ROBINSON: Well, the cheque hit(?)[113] him. I may be wrong. But look, I am not going to go to the point of saying -----

MS FILKIN: What Roger Davis is saying he said to me is that he did not know that.

MR ROBINSON: I did not know that. Right.

MS FILKIN: He makes nothing of it.

MR ROBINSON: No. Well, I think he has forgotten, frankly. He did not have as good a memory as Sami by a long shot. Let me say there, even Sami, I was in Bernard's office right at the beginning of the Hugh Aldous inquiry, when I phoned Sami I said, "What's this I've found in my notebook of all those years ago? What's this management thing?" We had all forgotten, Sami as well. Then he had to think, and then it all came back to all of us. Sami said, "Oh no, they never paid." I thought that was my recollection too. So certainly from Roger's point of view it was not central to Longform, it was not central to the accounting, it was something that was extraneously being conducted from his point of view, and had it come he would no doubt have been delighted. I would have said I think he has probably forgotten, but, you know, I would not say that categorically, and probably I would think on the balance of probability he would not know about the invoice of 24th October. Perhaps I could say something about that invoice now.

MS FILKIN: Yes, of course.

MR ROBINSON: I have to be careful, after ten years, not to reconstruct these things.

MS FILKIN: Of course.

MR ROBINSON: And there is a danger.

MS FILKIN: It is a difficulty, is it not?

MR ROBINSON: It really is a difficulty. The more you go back, then you think of what you logically

would have done, and then it becomes "Well, this is in fact what I did do." I went through this very much with some other awful peaks and troughs in there. What I think happened there - but this is subject to checking the dates again - was I saw Kevin the night before and covered a number of things about it. We were coming up to a merger. The merger was scheduled for April the following year, it became May, and all the work, the Longform work, the preparatory work, was going on and was not actually brought forward until April, and the payment was never paid, that is why it did not appear in there. I would have seen Kevin that night. I went home. That was in London. I can remember being quite late. I was quite pleased, since he would get it through or something. This is reconstructing now.


MR ROBINSON: Why do you not raise an invoice. I go home. Next morning, straight on to it. Phone Margaret, this is her typing, her typeface and everything, she is our secretary, the Chairman's, Sami, and mine. I said "I am at Orchards ..." which is put there "This is what we owe them. Do it as an invoice and put at the bottom 'Please pay Transfer Technology'". She would have sent that off immediately to Kevin. Now it is not a properly prepared invoice, it is a nuisance in every way but the document was to facilitate Kevin's remonstrations with his father in favour of paying the invoice. He wanted something in his hand. He wanted to raise an invoice "Get me an invoice" and "There is the invoice", that sort of thing. I am pretty sure perhaps even Sami did not know about that, I do not know. My job is to get the payment, their job is to do the work and my job is to supervise.


MR ROBINSON: I think that answers that.


MR ROBINSON: He certainly should not, and I think he did, I doubt that he knew about the invoice. I think that explains why it was not sent as a properly constructed company invoice. Is that okay?

MS FILKIN: Yes, that is fine.

MR ROBINSON: (Mr Robinson then read to himself but out loud) Transfer Technology was me.

MS FILKIN: Of course, you owned it.

MR ROBINSON: 99.9999 per cent, so we never intended to make that difference. I remember going up there. I spent quite a lot of time up there at Lock. This is like LS Lowry land, rows of red houses, I would be saying "Right, it was metal 10, it was metal detector 10 was working wrong", we sent our engineers in. I would be giving priorities on the technical things to get right, not from a technical point of view but from a priority/commercial point of view. I was hopefully getting the marketing sorted out by moving a new demonstration room down to ---

MS FILKIN: Yes, I have seen that.

MR ROBINSON: I think always in the Maxwell mind "I was Geoffrey Robinson. I was TransTec and I was Central and Sheerwood for them". In the end it came down to one payment, and I am sure in Bob's mind he probably thought that covered everything with it, we did not.


MR ROBINSON: I think this is what I said last time, and perhaps I am expressing myself more clearly on recollection now, I hope so, having read that. It really became less and less important to us the more certain the merger became.

MS FILKIN: I understood that.

MR ROBINSON: Then when we gave up on it, and I had received my payment personally for work which had never involved TransTec and TransTec had nothing to do with, there was no longer an issue. We have got the company, we have got the benefit for what we have done, I had been paid for my work at C & S and that was acceptable to us.

MS FILKIN: Yes. Fine. Some of what I am going to check is as I have gone through the documents this last week. I want to make sure that I am being accurate so some of this you will have told me but I am just checking with you just to make sure I have got it right. I can see from the papers - do stop me if anything I say is not correct - that the plans were well under way for that merger in the autumn of that year.

MR ROBINSON: The plans were well under way in the autumn of that year for the merger the next year.

MS FILKIN: Yes. When was the decision taken to sell?

MR ROBINSON: To sell what?

MS FILKIN: Well, TransTec.

MR ROBINSON: We started way back. The idea I had in my mind, Central & Sheerwood was going nowhere ---


MR ROBINSON: --- They decided to invest in property. They had marked heavy debts up, all that sort of thing. I brought forward an alternative proposal. I got to know these two companies that had survived the wreckage of the Hollis buy-out. I knew Central & Sheerwood and the two manufacturing companies. We had to disengage from Central & Sheerwood a number of property interests.

MS FILKIN: Yes, I saw that.

MR ROBINSON: We had those two companies. We had Lock and C&S and we had TransTec. I said "Bring these together, we will launch it through C&S, getting rid of the property that is in there".


MR ROBINSON: That would have all started a year ago.


MR ROBINSON: In June of that year, 1989, something like that, we got the agreement in principle. I will tell you a funny story, it will not take a second.

MS FILKIN: No, no. That is quite all right.

MR ROBINSON: In the lead up to the merger, which was scheduled for April and then became May, very short delay really, it did not stop, although we had spent a million pounds on fees already - an awful lot of money in those days, awful lot of money for these four companies - Bob was still talking - I think you would have to check me here - certainly in the March if not in the April preceding the merger that he had plans to turn Central & Sheerwood into a property company.

MS FILKIN: In 1991?


MR ROBINSON: You are never certain until it is there. We had a new finance director who would phone up and say "What is going on? I have just left my company". This was Neil Logue. I checked with Kevin and said "Do not worry, it is just Bob shouting or sounding off". I told him this and he said "Well, that is very embarrassing to all my friends".

MS FILKIN: Quite. Just get me straight then if you would on the dates of all the things.


MS FILKIN: You were on the board of C&S for a long time prior to that.


MS FILKIN: I have got the date of that. When did you actually become Chairman?

MR ROBINSON: I can give you the date.

MS FILKIN: Do you know that?

MR O'SULLIVAN: Of Central & Sheerwood?


MR O'SULLIVAN: Would it have been on completion of the deal?

MS FILKIN: I think so, but I am not sure. That was in May 1991?

MR ROBINSON: A little later than that. It was no longer Central & Sheerwood, it was called Transfer Technology.

MS FILKIN: I am aware of that.

MR ROBINSON: It was no later. I was Executive Chairman in effect.

MS FILKIN: Yes. Just so I am clear about the dates that relate to Hollis. You were on the board of Hollis?

MR ROBINSON: I joined with a management buy-out.


MR ROBINSON: I can give you these dates, I do not have them in my head.

MS FILKIN: They look different in different bits of paper so I thought I should ask you so that you are the person who is saying what the dates are.

MR ROBINSON: Can I say in writing?

MS FILKIN: Yes, the dates of being on the board and any other office you held.

MR ROBINSON: You see one thing I think I did very inattentively was to stay on the board. What Maxwell asked me to do after the collapse, and I wanted to buy Lock and C&S from him then, he said "No, we want them and you have to look after them" and all this sort of stuff. At that point I really believed I had resigned from the Chairmanship of Hollis.

MS FILKIN: Of Hollis?


MS FILKIN: But you had not?

MR ROBINSON: I had not, no. I said "Okay I will look after those for you." I had nothing to do with any of the rest of it. I wanted to explain to you how the 200 could have appeared in the accounts later.

MS FILKIN: Yes, I was going to say but you were nominally Chairman.

MR ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely.

MS FILKIN: So you were not going to the meetings?

MR ROBINSON: No. It was wholly owned by Maxwell, secured by Maxwell, which I had managed to do from the collapse. There were no meetings.


MR ROBINSON: It was hopelessly over geared. The 100 million they thought they had raised was Kevin's first big success. I warned him then "You will never get this money". The thing is going to go "Bad, bad" and it did. He did not like me for that. I could have saved him. I had no powers, non exec. chairman. Every time they wanted to put it right, the management team went straight to Bob for more money. Bob, in the end, I said "Why do you not just get rid of it, put it into receivership".


MR ROBINSON: He could not do that because of all his other inter-related banking commitments.

MS FILKIN: Yes. Going back to the Longform Report, that obviously makes it clear to me this debt, which obviously was a key debt, the Roll Centre debt. Can you clarify for me exactly what that debt consisted of? It looks to me from the papers that I have seen as if it consisted of a debt, or part of a debt for a machine, this ED2 thing, and partly a loan to you. It looks as if it is a combination of the two, is that right?

MR ROBINSON: I do not know. I cannot remember. What I can tell you, certainly the first part is right. It was a loan in relation to repayments.

MS FILKIN: Yes, I am clear about that.

MR ROBINSON: I do not know. Again, if you want, Brenda would be the person who can check that for us.

MS FILKIN: Brenda's role, is she your PA? Your accountant? What is she?

MR ROBINSON: She is the person who looks after all my accounts. All the family accounts.

MS FILKIN: Do you call her something like your accountant?

MR ROBINSON: No, Brenda is known as Brenda. She was the one who was able to pull out all those accounts.

MS FILKIN: Yes, absolutely.

MR ROBINSON: Fantastic. We will put Brenda on that. If you want to see Brenda ---

MS FILKIN: No, no, I do not need to see her, I just need to be clear about that because I need to describe it correctly, that is all I am trying to do.

MR ROBINSON: Okay. Would you like a description from me?

MS FILKIN: I would like to know what it was.

MR ROBINSON: I will ask her to do it. She could list the things she did.

MS FILKIN: You may be able to answer it by the next question I want to ask you. It is apparent to me that it was important, because of the aim to turn this into a PLC, to get that debt paid off, the bit that looks as if it was a loan to you. That would be obvious loan director stuff. Am I right about that?

MR ROBINSON: We had undertaken to reduce whatever it was, whatever part of the Roll Centre debt. I am not sure it is clearly divisible.

MS FILKIN: I am not sure it is. That is why I thought I would ask you.

MR ROBINSON: May I come back to you on this. Brenda will know. By 200, it just seems a global amount, they wanted to reduce it by 200 and I agreed to do that.

MS FILKIN: It was about half a million, the quantum, as far as I can see, in December. Yes, it was apparent that what you had done was agreed to reduce it by 200,000. That is what makes me guess that was the quantum of the loan which, for want of a better description, was a directors loan.

MR ROBINSON: I do not know.

MS FILKIN: I am making assumptions. I want to be clear.

MR ROBINSON: Very dangerous.

MS FILKIN: You may know that?

MR O'SULLIVAN: There are other things as well that you ought to know. For example, Geoffrey had loaned the money ---

MS FILKIN: I am sure he had.

MR O'SULLIVAN: --- to encourage ---

MS FILKIN: It was all his money anyway. It was all going between companies, I see that. Technically ---

MR O'SULLIVAN: The sum was 200,000 as well.

MR ROBINSON: I will check it out.


MR ROBINSON: Let me check it for you. I cannot make the assumption, I honestly do not know.


MR ROBINSON: What I would like to tell you is that there was never any pressure on me that was difficult to repay that loan, as I explained to you last time, because they would have waited quite happily, it would have been just the same thing to them to have it repaid in December or to have it repaid in the April or May, whenever the merger took place. There was no difference, provided the merger went ahead —

MS FILKIN: --- and provided it was off the books by then.

MR ROBINSON: Yes, or at the same time.


MR ROBINSON: If a merger does not go ahead, you are under no obligation.

MS FILKIN: I understand.

MR ROBINSON: I do not see why it should, we did apparently. Come the merger, all you do is say "We have £1.2 million, I will take it out of the £1 million" or if I need the whole million --- I do not know how much of this you need?



MS FILKIN: To actually do the technical process of transmuting this into a PLC you would have had to have got that loan off the accounts?

MR ROBINSON: No, I do not think so. You would have had a note of the accounts saying "This will be ...".


MR ROBINSON: I think. Nobody told me I absolutely had to do it. If it was still in the accounts the loan would be reduced, why should I do that until the thing is completed?

MS FILKIN: What you also did ---

MR ROBINSON: --- would be repay it from the proceeds of the sale.

MS FILKIN: Forgive me, that is something I think I need to be clear about. I do not thing that is true.


MS FILKIN: I may be wrong. That was why I wanted to check it. Why I am thinking as I am is because of what you next did in the early months of 1991, you produced a personal guarantee to pay off the rest of it.

MR ROBINSON: Absolutely.

MS FILKIN: That was obviously important.

MR ROBINSON: Why was it important to have the 200 off before the 31 December?

MS FILKIN: I do not know.

MR ROBINSON: No, I do not know.


MR ROBINSON: Bear with me a second, if I had given an undertaking, and I had undertaken to pay all of it, covering the 200 too, and it had been clearly understood on the completion, 200 of my financial cash would be retained to be paid off immediately, that would be perfectly acceptable. It would not suit me necessarily to pay it off. I am not saying we did not. 31 December, why? Suppose the merger does not go through. Here is Maxwell still talking about it not going through. I think there was a good chance of it going through but you are never certain.

MS FILKIN: No. Well if I could just have a fact about that because then I will not get that wrong. That would be helpful. Did anybody raise that debt with you at the time and say to you "You have got to actually get this paid off?"

MR ROBINSON: I do not have a clear recollection about it. In my mind always was that I wanted enough cash to do whatever was necessary at the end. I must say I was comforted by that because I thought they might start seeking out "Saying you have got to take all shares and all this". At one point I was thinking of doing that and when I said "No, I would like a million". They all said "Yes, that is very sensible, Geoffrey". I was comforted by the fact that there was cash there.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely. Going back to the autumn period, when this debt was still on the books, the whole of it, did you talk to anybody else about settling that debt on your behalf?

MR ROBINSON: No. I do not have the clear recollection on this. Overriding what I am going to reply to you is that I do not have a clear recollection about this. It was done by Roger. There were some documents signed by me. There were many documents that I signed, as you can imagine. The money could have come from --- That is what you are really thinking still, is it not?

MS FILKIN: I am trying to understand it.


MS FILKIN: I am wondering whether you can recall speaking to anybody? People inside the business: Roger Davis?

MR ROBINSON: Roger, I would have talked to Roger about that because he was the one preparing the documents. I do not remember it being a big factor in the thing. I knew we were doing that. In my mind we could do it then or later and come to the same thing, as long as I gave the guarantee and I gave the commitment.


MR ROBINSON: You may be right. That was what I thought at the time at any rate. I am pretty clear about that.


MR ROBINSON: I think they wanted it tidied up. I think that is right. The books showed that it was tidied up. The money could have come from Roll Centre itself where we tried to find out, as you know, and we could not find out. It could have come from Mme Bourgeois who I was working very closely with at the time. I think they are the best two areas. Josca is dead, she was dead before this enquiry happened.


MR ROBINSON: I cannot get her accounts, they are all in the bank. Roll Centre had changed hands three times, or something ridiculous.

MS FILKIN: None of the others like Mr Davis or Dr Ahmed said to you "Here is my suggestion for how we get that?"

MR ROBINSON: No, not that I recall.

MS FILKIN: I am sure from what you have said, your answer to this one is going to be the same. As far as you can recall nobody acting on your authority anyway arranged for that debt to be paid off?


MS FILKIN: No. We have talked about the other, if you like, anticipated debt, the fee for management services. We have talked about what was behind it personally. In your letter of 23 March to me you say categorically that the fee for management services was not meant to cover your role as Chairman.

MR ROBINSON: No, absolutely not. It had nothing to do with it. I have told you in confidence. I really did not think I was Chairman. I did not even resign when the thing went bust.


MR ROBINSON: This gives proof to that. Absolutely not. Nothing to do with it. I never did anything at Central's Head Office.

MS FILKIN: I am right then in saying that at no time did you anticipate two fees of £200,000?


MS FILKIN: One for being Chairman and one for the management services.

MR ROBINSON: (Laughter)

MS FILKIN: It is just something in one of the lines and I thought I must ask you to be sure.

MR ROBINSON: Fair enough. Excuse my laughter.

MS FILKIN: All right. I was sure but it is much better that I ask.

MR ROBINSON: When you look back and read this, subject to Robert Maxwell's agreement, it was not really a contract.

MS FILKIN: Well. (Laughter) In 1998, this is taking you to the time of the inquiry by my predecessor, the Chairman at the time, Bob Sheldon, wrote to you in a letter of 23 June asking you whether you had expected any benefit or fee from Hollis. You replied absolutely straight forwardly "no".

MR ROBINSON: Yes. That was in my capacity as Chairman.


MR ROBINSON: That was what I always understood it to be.

MS FILKIN: Whether you had expected any benefit or fee from Hollis.

MR ROBINSON: If that is not explicitly clear let me make it now.


MR ROBINSON: It was that the Chairman's remuneration ---

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

MR ROBINSON: In that capacity, I would not even have sought it.

MS FILKIN: If you had been clear that the question asked was "Did you anticipate any benefit from Hollis?" what would the answer have been?

MR ROBINSON: I think I have been honest with you and told you and Bernard came in on the last meeting and said that during my period when I was Paymaster in the Treasury, being very honest about Lock, I had forgotten about the management contract.

MS FILKIN: You would have continued with the reply?

MR ROBINSON: You will be interested to hear how it came up. I went to see Jeremy Roberts and Bernard O'Sullivan and I took all my notebooks in. He made me go through it. This is Jeremy, because he is a prosecutor. If I had written something like this on one bit, he looked underneath and said "I can read that". That is the depth he went into. I suddenly found that we were referring to all this that could have happened, and it started to come back. Then I phone Sami in Jeremy's office in Gough Square, phoned from that corner there, there was only one phone there and I said "Sami, what was this about?" He did not have anything. He could not remember the contract. Then he remembered people going to Lock. He could not remember it either. I did not feel that bad that I had forgotten.

MS FILKIN: You said you always had a very good memory.

MR ROBINSON: I am beginning to suffer like all of us now.

MS FILKIN: If I could ask you then another question, which again is about making sure that we have had every opportunity to be absolutely clear so that nobody can question what you want to say. Did you, or anybody acting on your authority, go to the Nat West in Tavistock Square in or around, on or around the 7 December 1990 to pay a cheque in?

MR ROBINSON: This is the whole thing, look at me, Elizabeth, absolutely ludicrous, crazy, scenario that you are trying to put, well you are not, I know, you are trying to put me into. I have never been into Tavistock Square now, I don't know where the bank is. I have never paid a cheque in for years. What I did subsequent to that, after (inaudible) presented his report --- (At this point the tape was switched off) You have to face the simple fact, MS Filkin, I do not think I am lying to you about the construction of a great illicit payment system, mounting it out without anybody knowing. It is a Lee Harvey Oswald theory that he killed JF Kennedy without anybody knowing, perhaps he did, I do not know. That I could do this without anybody knowing, that I would do this anyway is just farcical and ludicrous.

MS FILKIN: Nobody went on your authority?


MS FILKIN: Right. It is obviously important that I give you a chance to say it. Now, whatever happened around the 7 December, a payment of £200,000 did come in to Transfer Technology some time towards the end of December. It was set off against the Roll Centre debt. Do you have any recollection now knowing —

MR ROBINSON: That payment day? Let us be clear about 7 December.

MS FILKIN: That is not clear. It came in some time. It certainly goes in to the books on 10 December.

MR ROBINSON: Which day of the week was 10 December?

MS FILKIN: Whatever. It is obviously around that time.

MR ROBINSON: Roger would not hesitate to pay in £200,000. What day did the other money clear, the 11th, was it not?

MR O'SULLIVAN: The 11th, yes.

MR ROBINSON: It went in on the 10th, it was dated the 10th.

MS FILKIN: It is dated the 10th in the books.

MR ROBINSON: Yes, there you are. Are you suggesting they made an error?

MS FILKIN: No, no, I am not suggesting they made an error.

MR ROBINSON: Are you suggesting that date might be inaccurate?

MS FILKIN: It might be.


MS FILKIN: I have no idea. I am trying to be absolutely clear.

MR ROBINSON: Anything else might be inaccurate.

MS FILKIN: Of course.

MR ROBINSON: As long as we start on that basis.

MS FILKIN: What we have not got is the bank statement.

MR ROBINSON: No. We do not have the cheque.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

MR O'SULLIVAN: We do not have the cash book.


MR ROBINSON: I am quite happy ---

MR O'SULLIVAN: We have tried very hard.

MS FILKIN: I know you have.

MR O'SULLIVAN: We have tried very, very hard.

MR ROBINSON: If you had said to me "I am going to get to that cheque before you" we would have shown the cheque.

MS FILKIN: Of course.

MR ROBINSON: We would have been delighted to have got the damn cheque.

MS FILKIN: All I was doing was being precise.

MR ROBINSON: The money came in one day before the other cleared. You have not got the perfect case. If all that happened, well it did, it was a huge coincidence. What I am assuring you is that the circumstances of the Maxwell cheque have nothing to do with me, nothing to do with TransTec, as you have been assured by everybody else. The date there, I do not know. (Inaudible)

MS FILKIN: He says he could not be precise on the documentation that is available. It was obviously somewhere around there.

MR ROBINSON: It could have been earlier then?

MS FILKIN: Yes, it could have been, of course. What is hard is the 30 December. Anyway what we know is that £200,000 got paid off the debt somehow at that time and nobody has been able to trace where that £200,000 came from.

MR O'SULLIVAN: The 30 December is this the normal ledger entry?


MR O'SULLIVAN: For example, the cash book entry in Pergamon has the money leaving Pergamon on 31 December.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

MR O'SULLIVAN: And the normal month end things.

MS FILKIN: I am just saying what we have got that is really hard in there is only that figure at the end of the day so we do not know what date.

MR O'SULLIVAN: I would like to disagree with you just slightly because I think we do have some hard evidence which is that in April 1991 Roger Davis was asked the question what date was this money paid and he said 10 December. That is very contemporaneous in respect of this case, although we are ten years behind, that is very contemporaneous evidence. It was the best evidence that we were able to find in April 1991 which said the 10 December.


MR O'SULLIVAN: You have spoken to him so you will have a better idea what he is saying. I do not know what he has said to you but what he said to me was he would have taken that from the binder of the cash book or from the bank statement.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

MR O'SULLIVAN: Did he say that to you?



MS FILKIN: I am quite clear that is what he did say.

MR O'SULLIVAN: It is rather confusing.

MS FILKIN: No he is not saying anything which should necessarily confuse you. He is saying that is the date that he has got, that is the only bit of information there is but he could not claim that was necessarily precise. That was all I was saying, I was not trying to make more or less of it than it was.

MR ROBINSON: Before he had been pretty firm about it being the 10th.

MS FILKIN: Is there anything else, other than what you have told me, which was that you could not recall at all where the money to pay off that debt came from, is there anything else that you need to tell me about the paying off of that debt?

MR ROBINSON: No, I wish there was something I could tell you about it.

MS FILKIN: Right. You have said very clearly that you do not think that the cheque for £200,000 that was debited as far as the bank statements show on 11 December was the same payment as the amount credited to TransTec on or around the 10 December. Why do you say absolutely firmly that that could not be the case?

MR ROBINSON: Certainly I had nothing to do with it.

MS FILKIN: I hear that.

MR ROBINSON: That is what you heard before.


MR ROBINSON: I just think you cannot get £200,000 in from me, which is what you are saying it is from me, one way or another or from Roll Centre which was me or a friend or my father, particularly from Maxwell, if it had come from Maxwell, Roger would have raised it immediately. I think the first discussion we would have had would be "How should we treat it". Going this way that it has gone it would be subject to income tax if they paid it straight in. Well, if they paid it straight in, Elizabeth, why did they not do it secretly, why did they do it in the Tavistock branch where there would be documentation. They would be alerting us, telling us of this. None of that can be found. None of us can remember it. It just does not stack up in the real world.

MR O'SULLIVAN: It was paid by telegraphic transfer.

MS FILKIN: Yes, absolutely.

MR ROBINSON: All the documentation. It would not be big documentation but Maxwell certainly wanted to know he had paid it.


MR ROBINSON: That scenario --- (End of first side of tape)

MS FILKIN: It is a theory.

MR ROBINSON: It would not be my view of what was most likely.


MR ROBINSON: Frankly, in all honesty, it would be the second.

MS FILKIN: Fine. What is most likely?

MR ROBINSON: I think there was a cock up in the accounting somewhere.


MR ROBINSON: There need not have been because the money was coming through.

MS FILKIN: We have talked about the 150,000 from Central and that was all done properly. That was at a time when you were on the Board of Central and so you would have known about that payment from both ends?

MR ROBINSON: What happened there in very simple terms, when we got effectively the no from Kevin after his meeting with his father. I have even got a note in my notebook saying which date, was it the 12 December?

MR O'SULLIVAN: 12 December.

MR ROBINSON: I phoned him and I said "Look, Robert" I never pushed. Somebody sent me Jeremy Roberts letter which I thought I was entitled to see.


MR ROBINSON: He says that I had conversations with Robert Maxwell about the management payment. That was incorrect, if he did say that, I think he did, Jeremy. I never spoke to Bob about the management contract at all.

MS FILKIN: No. You only spoke with Robert (Maxwell) about the £150,000.

MR ROBINSON: Yes but never in all the months before, I never did speak about the management contract. It was all between Mike Stoney and Kevin and they kept it at that level and made it subject to Bob's agreement. This one, I phoned him up and said "Look Bob I have been doing all this work for C & S now for three and a half years. It is a long time. The merger is coming up. Can we not clean it up so that there is no nasty thing around the merger".


MR ROBINSON: He said "What do you propose?" I said "Well, we are accruing X amount in the management accounts for only one year, that is for management services" which was £150,000. I said "It is accrued for. We have the cash. I believe we should pay that now and have done with it". He said "Very sensible". Everything went like a rocket. The thing was drawn up, everybody signed. We paid it, declared it. It was fine.

MS FILKIN: Yes. This is me again checking that I have understood something so bear with me. From the previous discussions I understand that the price of the sale of the Transfer Technology to Central & Sheerwood was a multiple of Transfer Technology ---


MS FILKIN: --- profits. Multiple as I understand it was ten, is that right.

MR ROBINSON: Apparently. It was post tax profits or pre, I cannot remember. You need to know both if you want to be precise, if you need it.

MS FILKIN: No, I do not think I do. I am just trying to understand it so I am not doing by default something that is not accurate.


MS FILKIN: At the time this was going through, and I put to you my thought - which may not be accurate and you are going to tell me whether it is or not - about what you had to do about getting a directors loan off those accounts, if you had needed to pay off ---

MR ROBINSON: When were the accounts? Your point is 31 December was the end of our accounting year, is this right?

MS FILKIN: No, I am talking about the period of time when you have got PWC in there having a look at what does the company look like because you are going to tell this company what it looks like, etc., and tell them what the problems are for any sort of merger or sale. That was in the autumn, it was in October/November 1990. It was in December you talked about the date, 10 December or thereabouts, that £200,000 gets paid off the debt that Roll Centre has to Transfer Technology. At that time - and of course I have looked at your bank accounts because you have kindly provided them - your current accounts at the time, if you had needed to, would you have had liquid assets from somewhere else whereby you could have found that £200,000 to pay it off?

MR ROBINSON: Yes, I could always find £200,000 from somewhere else, from my own resources. My father would have lent it to me. We have a very good family relationship but I would not have done it that way. I know you do not accept this, Elizabeth, I am sure a commitment from me to guarantee and a commitment from me to repay on the completion of the merger would have been acceptable and that is what I would have attempted to negotiate.

MS FILKIN: Fine. That bit we can clear and that may well turn out to be the case.

MR ROBINSON: That is how I would have attempted to do it. If you are right and I could not have done that then yes I would have got £200,000 elsewhere.

MS FILKIN: Where would you have got that from?

MR ROBINSON: Roll Centre would have been the first thing to look at, could they do it.

MS FILKIN: I think the answer to that is no.

MR ROBINSON: Yes. They might have been able to extend their line of credit, I am not sure, how do you know that?

MS FILKIN: I just felt, looking at the papers, it does not look as if that would be the case. I may be wrong. It is all guessing, hindsight.

MR ROBINSON: Yes. That is fair, it would have been very difficult for them to do it.

MS FILKIN: Yes, absolutely.

MR ROBINSON: That does not say it is impossible.

MS FILKIN: Because if they could it is likely that is where the money would have come.

MR ROBINSON: You are only looking for bridging finance at the worst is how I would have looked at it. Come May, I do not have to borrow it, you would have seen it at that time. We were only looking for a four months bridge, that would not have been difficult to get from any number of sources.

MS FILKIN: Are you saying that they would not have been your liquid assets?

MR ROBINSON: I have not seen my bank accounts so I just do not know. You would have to let me look.

MS FILKIN: You have got them. You provided them to me.

MR ROBINSON: I know. I did not know you were going to ask this question.

MS FILKIN: Of course not. Have a look at them and see if you want to answer that question differently. I take the point that you would probably be able to raise it as a loan.

MR ROBINSON: A bridging loan was strictly all that was needed for four months.

MS FILKIN: Yes. When we met last time I asked you whether you had kept a note of the two meetings with Mr Aldous and Bernard said he was embarrassed because he had not and he usually does. What did Mr Aldous say to you at that meeting?

MR ROBINSON: The first or the second?


MR ROBINSON: About what?

MS FILKIN: About what he had found and what he now thought the situation demonstrated?

MR ROBINSON: Not to put too fine a point on it I think right from the beginning, again how much of this --- Just explain the basis of these transcripts. Are you obliged to show them in their entirety to the Committee?

MS FILKIN: I am obliged to show them whatever I see fit.


MS FILKIN: Even if I see fit, because it tells the story, I always say to the Committee of anybody who has been interviewed me, this is personal information that they do not believe is relevant.

  * * *

MR ROBINSON: I remember a conversation in my flat much better than the other ones, quite frankly, and it may be because we did not have a note of it that the other ones I cannot remember too clearly what they were. I remember he was always talking about two pieces of string hanging like this and he believed bringing them together would solve his problem. I said "Yes, solve your problem, what about me". Those two bits of string do not belong together. The string was a cheque on the one side, the nominal ledger, and all we needed was the cheque. The real solution to this - let me tell you again, - I did not commission that inquiry to find the cheque, not particularly because I was in Government and it would have been embarrassing, there were several reasons for it. One was nobody wanted to do it - Andersen, - I do not even think they would have given me access to the papers. I would have to get special permission, and heaven knows what. The second one was that Bernard should do the work for this. How far we went? Well we needed two paralegals and God knows what.

MS FILKIN: I can see the amount of work you did.


MR O'SULLIVAN: To do this job you have to have a team of paralegals.

MS FILKIN: I can see that.

MR O'SULLIVAN: You have to check what they check. You have to go back and do spot checks.

MS FILKIN: Of course.

MR ROBINSON: I tell you what I am still prepared to do. I am prepared to establish, and announce it publicly, a finder's fee for anybody who can get hold of that cheque.


MR ROBINSON: If we can get access to them, there are still hundreds and hundreds of boxes. The plainly awful fact is there are only three cheques in that run and none of them has been found. What is it ---

MR O'SULLIVAN: The 1750 run.

MR ROBINSON: I would still be prepared to do that. Nobody would like to see that cheque more than I would.

MS FILKIN: I am sure.

MR ROBINSON: Really, honestly.

MS FILKIN: No, I am sure that is the case. I have no doubt about it.

MR ROBINSON: Your question there was "What did he say to me?" My impression was that he would like to reach the conclusion that I had it and as an accountant, as Jeremy said in his thing, the thrust of the evidence was in that direction, which is fair enough, and you know I was given a pretty hard time by Jeremy.


MR ROBINSON: When I said I stuck to my guns, I did not mean I was holding a position that was untenable.

MS FILKIN: No, no.

MR ROBINSON: I meant 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.


MR ROBINSON: After that black meeting, which I wrote up myself, if you would like to see a note, I was very annoyed about it, I do not think it was good advice, it was very bad advice I had on that occasion.

MS FILKIN: The black meeting with?



MR ROBINSON: This all preceded the August meetings. I was not in good shape.


MR ROBINSON: I waited for Sami to get back. He was in America and Japan at the time. I just went through it one more time saying "Are you sure, Sami, we are absolutely right on this?".


MR ROBINSON: I was not reconstructing rational arguments as to what I might have done which showed that I had not had it. I was thinking the blackest thoughts about how I could have had a brainstorm and done something. Sami utterly reassured me that from a company point of view, Brenda offered me nothing had gone through so only it could be this nightmare scenario which was ludicrous and so far fetched it was unbelievable and me acting totally on my own.


MR ROBINSON: I went through it all and came to the conclusion "That absolutely is not right". Ever since that time I have had a settled mind. You will correct me if I go wrong, there was nothing in the auditors meeting at all which unsettled me. They knew what they knew, and they knew what we knew and we provided the information.

MS FILKIN: Of course.

MR ROBINSON: We had opened the bank account. We had found the proforma. Amazing thing really, you know why we had to do a lot of this, he was running short of cash for the inquiry for the DTI. I do not know where that came from. Anyway he was quite happy to let us do it. In a way he had a lot of confidence in us.

MS FILKIN: Of course. He must have.

MR ROBINSON: I can remember the meeting in my room almost word for word.

MR O'SULLIVAN: We have just covered the same general stuff that we have covered but perhaps not in as much detail. I think you have been far more detailed in these meetings than we were.

MS FILKIN: Yes. Thank you. You say that the meeting where you got your advice was what you called the black meeting and you have a note of that. I would be pleased to have it.

MR ROBINSON: I said that as I went along. Let me think. Yes, my notes, we can dig out, I argued through. It is worth putting down pretty much why it is improbable that I could have done this.

MS FILKIN: I am trying to consider everything and I am particularly, of course, wanting to consider everything that you have said very carefully. Anything that you have got like that I would like to see. I need to ask you one other question you will pleased to hear - it is only one more - and I am sure you will be aware why I ask you this in relation to what the actual complaint was. In your book, which you kindly gave me a copy of, you say you -and I quote - "... never requested nor received any compensation as non executive chairman ...".


MS FILKIN: "... nor was any payment made".

MR ROBINSON: That is as non executive chairman. It is not as precisely written as it should be.


MR ROBINSON: If you want to put the non executive chairman at the back that would be even better.

MS FILKIN: Fine. I just needed to clarify it.

MR ROBINSON: It goes back to the other one too. The chairmanship was a disaster I should never have done it. I should have cut it. I tried very hard to get out of it. There is an interesting little story. It has come back to me over the last few days. When the Hollis thing collapsed and they were thinking whether they should let it go, then they had public debts too. I said that is not my fault, if you do it, it is your look out. Before they took the decision, it is rather like the Rothschild in the old days who always retired into the inner sanctum, as they called it, and only family members were in the inner sanctum. It did not help them in the end, they broke it up later. So I was left in the outer chamber, so to speak. (Laughter) They came back in and said "No, we are not letting it go, Geoffrey, please we must go on". I said "Okay, I will look after those two there and that is what I will do". Can I tell you one other thing about how the accounting system ended up with the £200,000 in the books?


MR ROBINSON: I was never there. These were constructed afterwards, a set of accounts.

MS FILKIN: For Hollis?

MR ROBINSON: For Hollis, yes. I was never at any meetings. Never attended.

MS FILKIN: You mean the Chairman's fee?

MR ROBINSON: Yes, Chairman's fee there. I do not know whether you saw this. I pointed it out to Jeannie because she did not seem to have seen it. They do actually state in those quite erroneously that the fee had been paid in October. These may be links to "paid" I think. We all know it was not paid until December. Yet despite it not being paid there, they had it paid in October and I suppose those accounts went through the normal statutory process and appeared like that, totally unrelated to what the real issue was, the 200. Do you see what I am saying?


MR ROBINSON: Totally incorrect. Just so you can see that could have appeared there, nothing to do with the payment of the cheque.

MS FILKIN: Yes, it could have.

MR ROBINSON: Yes. It is not a big point.

MS FILKIN: That is everything I need to say. Is there anything else you want to say?

MR ROBINSON: Just in broad terms. How much of all this do you think you need to bring out? Are you going to bring out the whole story? May I ask you?

MS FILKIN: Of course you can ask me.

MR ROBINSON: You do not have to answer.

MS FILKIN: I may not be able to tell you at this moment but I will tell you the best I can, of course.

MR ROBINSON: Yes. Funnily enough, in the original version of the book I told the whole story.


MR ROBINSON: Then I asked one or two people and they said "What do you want to bring all that up for?" Bower brought out half of it, he did not know the other half. I am beginning to think now I will send you a chapter on it, if you like.

MS FILKIN: It might be helpful.

MR ROBINSON: A chapter might be helpful. It is a good chapter.

MS FILKIN: Thank you.

MR ROBINSON: You see, if all this is going to be brought up to the Committee we are bound to get leaks from all over the place again and it all becomes public knowledge. I am just asking really do you have to tell the story, the dates?

MS FILKIN: I shall have to tell the story of the cheques.

MR ROBINSON: And of the entries into TransTec, the proforma, all that?

MS FILKIN: I shall have to tell. I cannot tell the story.

MR ROBINSON: I am not saying you should not.

MS FILKIN: No. I cannot tell the story without that. There are two things, firstly, as I have said, the transcript you have got and this transcript, if you mark up any items with square brackets at the end which you believe are not pertinent and you would prefer left out, that will (a) help me to decide what I have to put in and (b), even if I have to put it in, it will make sure that is drawn to the Committee's attention. I was going to say, the other thing, as you know, you will get the opportunity to look at this thing, and I hope that will be next week, that is the timetable. I am trying desperately to keep to what I am trying to do.

MR ROBINSON: You can have an extra month now.

MS FILKIN: I could never have done it before. I had not known what was involved. If we kill ourselves this week, when I say next week I mean not the week in which Easter Monday sits but the beginning of the week after.

MR ROBINSON: 23 April.

MS FILKIN: Yes. That is when I hope I might be successful in getting it to you.


MS FILKIN: You will get the chance to read it. You will not get a lot of time. You will have to read it and turn it around fast. It will give you a chance of again writing anything you wish. The Committee usually, as you know, asks people to come and speak to them so it obviously gives a person the opportunity if they want to to say "...and can I remind you...", at the end of their conversation, "... I really think it would be sensible if you removed X, Y and Z". That is all possible.

MR ROBINSON: Yes. Very good. Now you will give us the report as such.

MS FILKIN: I will give you the chance to correct it.

MR ROBINSON: Yes. Then, separately, you will write what you need to.

MS FILKIN: Then I have to write my conclusions.

MR ROBINSON: What will you write them on the basis of, honestly? On the basis of probability.

MS FILKIN: It has to be.


MS FILKIN: I have to, of course, and I always do because these things are very important to people, they affect their lives. I would obviously always apply a high standard because of the seriousness ---

MR ROBINSON: In which direction, against me?

MS FILKIN: No, not against you, for you.


MS FILKIN: I would put the standard very high that I would have to satisfy myself on.

MR ROBINSON: That is very good.

MS FILKIN: That is of course the proper thing to do.

MR ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely.

MS FILKIN: For whoever it is and whatever it is. Because Members of Parliament are public office holders in the public eye, they are subject to the scourge of the press and all of that. Although this is an internal disciplinary operation, which is all it is meant to be, in real life it is not. It is not.

MR ROBINSON: No, it is not at all.

MS FILKIN: Because it is in the public eye.


MS FILKIN: So that is my approach.

MR ROBINSON: Absolutely.

MS FILKIN: The Committee is always very clear that it has to have very high standards. It makes much of that.

MR O'SULLIVAN: The annoying thing is that despite huge efforts on our part we have not got the pieces of paper which ---

MS FILKIN: --- which you would like, which we would all like.

MR O'SULLIVAN: --- which would find the answer.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

MR ROBINSON: That is where you come in.

MS FILKIN: It is absolutely infuriating for you. It is also infuriating for me.

MR ROBINSON: Absolutely. If you have any bright ideas where we could find this cheque, you know as much about this now, almost, as I do probably.

MS FILKIN: It may well be that what Bernard O'Sullivan says is accurate, that of course I have got access to those records and I have been perusing them.

MR ROBINSON: Which records?

MS FILKIN: The stuff which sits in Andersen's.

MR ROBINSON: If you really think there is a chance.

MS FILKIN: There are oceans of it.

MR ROBINSON: Elizabeth that is why I backed off my saying I would do it.

MS FILKIN: I understand that.

MR ROBINSON: We could do a finder's fee basis of £50,000, on a finder's fee basis, that was the other idea I had.


MR ROBINSON: Even if you find for me it is always going to be ---

MS FILKIN: Yes, you want to know the facts.

MR ROBINSON: No, no, I know the facts. I want to prove the facts.

MS FILKIN: Yes. You want the stuff that backs up.

MR ROBINSON: I need the cheque.


MR ROBINSON: There is one thing, if it says cash on the cheque --- The other thing, you know, I did say "Why do they not go back to the people who were employed in that bank on that day ..." - they should know in that year, whatever it is - "... and just question each one of them." They would not even do that you know.

MS FILKIN: I can see it from the bank's point of view.

MR ROBINSON: Nobody can be bothered. That is what Andersen's said. Andersen's said "Would anybody agree to us going through this".

MS FILKIN: For our purposes, your's and mine, we have to clear this out of the way, have we not, to be fair to you?

MR ROBINSON: It is always going to be a thing.

MS FILKIN: Thank you very much indeed. Sorry I had to annoy both of you by having you here on Good Friday.

MR O'SULLIVAN: No, I apologise again. It is my fault. I apologise to both of you.

113  Mr Robinson could not identify this word. Back

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