Mr Robinson's Detailed Response to the
40. As already indicated,
Mr Robinson has categorically denied ever having sought or received
any payment in respect of his position as chairman of Hollis Industries
plc. He told me that the management contract negotiated between
Transfer Technology Ltd and Hollis Industries "had nothing
to do with my role as chairman of Hollis". He added "This
[the management contract] was expressly done through Transfer
Technology Ltd ..." (Annex B).
41. Mr Robinson's account of the circumstances
surrounding the making by Pergamon AGB of a payment of £200,000,
purportedly in settlement of Mr Robinson's invoice for management
fees in relations to Hollis Industries plc, is as follows (Annex
The reason why the invoice was typed
on his home address writing paper (Orchards) was that he had met
Mr Kevin Maxwell the previous day (as confirmed by Mr Robinson's
diary) and that he had been working at home on the day the invoice
The invoice made it quite clear that
Mr Robinson wished the money to be paid to Transfer Technology
In a letter to Mr Robinson's solicitors
dated 22 February 1999, Mr Kevin Maxwell had stated:
"My clear recollection is that my father finally
refused to sanction any such payment, despite having previously
verbally agreed. He was of the opinion that Maxwell interests
had lost too much money in Hollis and he was not prepared to sanction
any payments to Geoffrey Robinson or any company associated with
him. Consequently, no payment was made."
Mr Stoney had sworn an affidavit in
November 1999 in which he said that Mr Robinson received only
one payment from a Maxwell-related companya fee of £150,000
plus expenses from Central and Sheerwood plc for his contribution
towards a "turnaround in profitability at A L Dunn &
Co Ltd and Coventry Apex Engineering Co Ltd" (two subsidiaries
of Central and Sheerwood).
Dr M S Ahmed and Mr Roger Davis, respectively
the then managing director and financial director of Transfer
Technology Ltd had sworn affidavits to the effect that "the
money was not paid to Transfer Technology Ltd".
Mr Robinson was willing to allow his
personal bank statements for the relevant period to be examined
in order to verify whether a £200,000 payment had been credited
to his account.
In the course of the DTI inquiry both
Mr Robinson's personal bank account records and those of his wife
and children for 1991 had been fully disclosed to the investigators.
42. Mr Robinson's letter of 23 March concluded:
"The details of cheque number 1751 paid
out by [Pergamon] AGB for £200,000 in December 1990 are correct.
What neither I, nor the DTI inspector, could find out was to whom
it was paid, despite twelve months of hard searching. Let me again
be categoric. I did not receive this money directly or indirectly.
No one wishes more than I to know what happened to the cheque".
43. Mr Robinson added:
"By the end of 1990 it was clear that the
enlarged group, which included Lock, would benefit from the work
done at that company and on this basis it was accepted that the
fee for the management contract was not going to be received".
44. In his second letter, dated 29 march 2001
(Annex HH), in response to written questions from me (Annex II),
Mr Robinson said that he had told Mr Bower that "there was
a £200,000 payment due to Transfer Technology Limited for
various management services provided to Lock" and that he
[Mr Robinson] "had neither directly nor indirectly received
45. Mr Robinson offered a different interpretation
from that made by Mr Bower of Mr Robinson's remark at their Grosvenor
House meeting in December 2000 concerning the traceability of
the account to which the payment of £200,000 by Pergamon
AGB was credited. As Mr Robinson put it:
"My last remark to him, which I recall very
clearly as I was fed up with the meeting, was: 'Why don't you
do something useful and find out where this cheque went?'".
46. Mr Robinson also responded to allegations
in Mr Bower's book that Mr Stoney had been misled by Mr Robinson
in the course of swearing his affidavit. Mr Robinson said that
a full meeting had taken place between him, his legal advisers
and Mr Stoney in April 1999. The wording of the note on the meeting
(KK) was agreed with Mr Stoney. Mr Stoney had sworn his affidavit
some months later "only after reviewing all of the relevant
paperwork and under no pressure from myself".
47. As regards Mrs Caddock's handwritten note
on the invoice purporting to record Mr Robinson's telephoned request
to make the management fee cheque payable to him personally, Mr
"I do not recall any conversation on this
matter with Mrs Caddock, although given her position as Mr Stoney's
secretary, it is possible that I spoke to her. Like Mr Stoney,
I cannot account for or understand the note in her handwriting,
save to say it may simply have been a misunderstanding. The invoice
quite categorically states that payment should be made to Transfer
48. Mr Robinson also confirmed that "we
have never had an account in the name of 'Orchards'".
49. In response to the point made by Mr Heathcoat-Amory
in his second letter, dated 26 March 2001 (Annex F), concerning
the entry in the published accounts of Hollis Industries plc for
the period covering 1990-91, referring to a £200,000 management
fee payable to the chairman of the company, Mr Robinson maintained
that this was an error and that the same view had been taken both
by the then Commissioner and the Committee. He added that he had
offered to pay for the cost of conducting a professional search
of Pergamon AGB's accounts for this purpose, but that neither
the then Commissioner nor the Committee had taken up his suggestion.
Such a search was eventually carried out as part of the DTI inquiry
and it was this which had led to the discovery of the payment
by way of cheque No. 001751.
50. I interviewed Mr Robinson on 31 March 2001
(Annex JJ) and went through with him in more detail a number of
the points contained in his letters of 23 and 29 March 2001.
51. Mr Robinson strongly maintained his denial
that he had ever received a payment of £200,000 in respect
of services to Lock. In the following exchanges he outlined what
he assumed to be the possible means by which, according to his
accusers, he could have concealed the payment:
"MR ROBINSON: I went there and did a secret
deal with Bob and pocketed the cheque, paid it in secretly atwhat
branch is it of the NatWest?paid it in. I have never been
there in my life, never in my life. It is just a farcical, ludicrous
scenario, but that is when I had to face and answer because that
is the onlywell, there are two alternatives really: Bob
paying it to himself somewhere or to somebody else somewhere and
me collecting a cheque illicitly from Bob and paying it in.
MS FILKIN: Well somebody paid in a
MR ROBINSON: I didn't. I never received the cheque
and I did not do any of that. The answerwhat I said to
had him in my flat for this purpose. I told him, "Look, you
must think this. Why would he do this?" He said, "He
owed you one." I said, "Okay, but why would he have
to pay it in that way? There was a legitimate invoice against
which he could have paid and everybody would have been very happy."
He said, "Then you would have paid less tax." I said,
"You don't know Mr Maxwell very well, he is not the sort
of chap who gives you a deal like that... ", not that I had
many dealings with him, but this is how one knows these things,
I had none with him in fact. He would want some quid pro quo.
He would want some reduction in the amount he was paying, if he
was going to do that, which he didn't. Why would he do it? There
is just no reason for doing it and then paying me £150,000
the next week officially and properly. In my mind none of it stacks
up. I did not have it. There could be another line of argument,
Ms Filkin, which says, "If it is paid into TransTec, there
is no problem, it is not declarable, your directorship but it
was nothing to do with your directorship of TransTec, you have
no problem." That was suggested to me by my own lawyers,
all I have to say is, "It was paid to TransTec" and
that is the end of that, but I cannot say that because it was
not true. It was not paid to me either. You have four people who
knew about it, five including myself: Sami Ahmed, the managing
director of TransTec; Roger Davis, finance director, saying, "No
cheque from Maxwell came in"; then you have Kevin [Maxwell]
and Michael Stoney both saying, "No, Geoffrey was not paid.
No company of his."" 
52. I then asked Mr Robinson how he explained
the credit for £200,000 which had been recorded as received
in Transfer Technology Ltd's books on 10 December 1990:
"MS FILKIN: Yes. So where did the £200,000
which did go into TransTec about that time come from?
MR ROBINSON: I cannot tell you
that, I do not know.
MS FILKIN: So how can those
other people say that a cheque did not come from Maxwell when
that they cannot say...
MR ROBINSON: They wouldn't know.
They say it did not go through them, therefore I think they both
in their minds leave open the idea I separately went to Maxwell
and did the deal. They know, on the assumption they recollectwell,
Roger [Davis] would know where the money it is £200,000.
Let's take them one by one. Sami [Ahmed] would know he had been
paid for the management contract, he would be delighted, we would
be rejoicing in TransTec if we had got this money, it is a small
company, £200,000 is a lot of money. Roger would know because
he would check where the money had come from.
MS FILKIN: So he can tell us?
MR ROBINSON: Roger cannot remember
where the money came from and I do not know. I can only think
of three sources really.
MS FILKIN: But how can they
then say that it didn't come from a Maxwell company?
MR ROBINSON: They are saying
to the best of their recollection it did not. I can tell you this,
if that money had come from Maxwell for the management contract,
we would all have known and all have celebrated.
MS FILKIN: I take that. I hear
what you say, that it did not come for those services.
MR ROBINSON: Or from Maxwell.
They would all know. It was a Pergamon cheque. When it comes in,
you know presumably where it has been paid in from.
MS FILKIN: I do not see how
the two things can be true. You can say, "I do not know where
the cheque came from. I cannot remember." But that does not
allow you to say, "It did not come from a Maxwell company."
You cannot say the two things.
MR ROBINSON: It could have been
an inter-company transfer, it does not have to be a cheque.
MS FILKIN: No, of course not.
MR ROBINSON: But Roger cannot
remember where the £200,000 came from. It is only in the
nominal ledger, he is quite clear the accounts for 200,000 new
money coming in."
53. I then pressed Mr Robinson about the suggestion
that a cheque for £200,000 would have represented a substantial
sum for a small company such as Transfer Technology Ltd and that
both its source and its ultimate purpose must have been known
to the management:
"MS FILKIN: What you have said to me is, "There
is a little company which would have been delighted if it got
a £200,000 cheque because ...
MR ROBINSON: From...
MS FILKIN: Well, that it would
have been delighted if it got £200,000. That is a lot of
money to this little company.
MR ROBINSON: I did say it in
the context of from Maxwell in particular.
MS FILKIN: I understand that,
but it seems to me you have to assume it holds good, that £200,000
is a large sum of money, it is a large sum of money for this company.
We are planning to search for a £200,000 sum of money, which
is a large sum of money in that context. Most people are saying,
"We are sure it did not come from Maxwell or a Maxwell company
but we cannot remember who it came from."
MR ROBINSON: Yes.
MS FILKIN: All I am saying is,
I do not know how you can say those two things in that situation.
And I do not know how you can say it if you think it is a large
sum of money.
MR ROBINSON: We had bigger sums
of money. Let's take them one by one. We had bigger. We had a
payment for £1,000,000, our biggest order, and a cheque for
a million or something like that, but £200,000 was a lot
of money and coming from Maxwell. What they are saying is, they
would have remembered it had it come from Maxwell. There is something
different about getting a management fee from Maxwell from getting
payment from a Korean steel company for an EDT machine. We would
remember that too, they opened champagne in the bank, it would
be that sort of occasion. There was no such occasion for a Maxwell
cheque but there werethe previous year my brother had put
£200,000 in, Madame Bourgeois
had put in £100,000, I think, so money in that sense was
coming in and they would have been more normal. They would have
been things since I was funding the company they would have expected
and not taken to be out of the ordinary, whereas the Maxwell thing
would have been somewhat out of the ordinary and therefore, I
think, in their minds and to my mind certainly, recollectable.
54. I also asked Mr Robinson whether he was aware
of anyone other than himself who might have provided £200,000
to clear some of the Roll Centre debt. Mr Robinson replied:
"The £200,000 could have come from
a number of sources. It could have been my brotherhe doesn't
recall it. It could have been Madame Bourgeois who helped me in
a number of respects. It could have been an inter-company transfer,
which initially was the most likely thing Roger would do. But
I do not know where that money came from and I do not know
why Roger made that entry which he did. Roger [Davis] cannot recall
47 See paragraph
48 See paragraphs
73 and 79. Back
49 During the Committee's
1998 inquiry Mr Robinson's personal financial records were independently
scrutinised; no evidence of any such payment was found. Back
50 Statements for
1990 had been destroyed in line with bank policy. Back
51 For Mr Stoney's
account of this matter, see paragraphs 59 and 60. Back
52 The inspector
appointed by the DTI (see paragraph 22). Back
53 Annex JJ. Back
54 Annex JJ. Back
55 In his book,
An Unconventional Minister, Mr Robinson describes Madame
Bourgeois as a businesswoman and car importer. Back
56 Annex JJ. Back
57 Annex JJ. Back