COVER-Up! It Is Seven Years since the [Pounds Sterling]2billion Fraud of Maxwell Was Exposed and Still No One -- Repeat No One -- Has Been Found Guilty of Any Wrongdoing. in Fact, Many in His Empire Have Flourished -- a Devastating Indictment of the Way the Establishment Always Looks after Its Own .

Daily Mail (London), February 4, 1999 | Go to article overview

COVER-Up! It Is Seven Years since the [Pounds Sterling]2billion Fraud of Maxwell Was Exposed and Still No One -- Repeat No One -- Has Been Found Guilty of Any Wrongdoing. in Fact, Many in His Empire Have Flourished -- a Devastating Indictment of the Way the Establishment Always Looks after Its Own .


Byline: TOM BOWER

THE INDICTMENT is simple but appalling. Seven years after the [pounds sterling]2 billion frauds of the Maxwell empire were exposed, no one has been convicted of any crime.

Worse, only a tiny handful among the army of so-called members of the Establishment - highly paid bankers, lawyers, accountants and managers have been reprimanded.

Not one of the hundreds of well-educated, supposedly moral professionals, given huge sums by Robert Maxwell to oil his path through Britain's laws so he could perpetuate his frauds, has noticeably suffered for their mistakes or for their failure to report his crimes.

In a succession of recklessly self-destructive decisions, Britain's law enforcement and regulatory agencies and now the Labour Government - have enshrined a culture of inactivity which avoids shaming those responsible for tolerating Maxwell's dishonesty.

In that context, the belated admission this week by Coopers & Lybrand, auditors of the Maxwell empire, that it 'lost the plot' and 'got too close to see what was going on' while the frauds were carried out is grotesque.

The [pounds sterling]3.5 million in fines and costs imposed on the partnership by the accountancy profession's regulator is a derisory flea bite upon a partnership whose greed and reckless judgments had, over 20 years, allowed Maxwell to build for the third time - an empire based upon fraud.

One truth compounds the indictment.

Until Robert Maxwell's death, hundreds of famous Britons flocked to his call, accepting his fees and hospitality, well aware of his dishonest past.

ACTING out of self-interest, they ignored the indictment by DTI inspectors in 1971, after another Maxwell fraud that indicated the businessman was a liar and a compulsive cheat.

The same culture of cosiness, which allowed Maxwell to carry out more frauds 20 years later, still protects the guilty.

The reason is simple. Among the most insidious developments in Britain over recent years has been the disappearance of any sense of shame by those responsible for unacceptable behaviour.

Ministers do not resign when caught lying. Civil servants scurry for cover when exposed for duplicity. Industrialists and bankers collect vast payoffs when they 'resign' after collapses in profits.

In that vein, Geoffrey Robinson, the former Postmaster General and a partner of Maxwell, was supported by Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, despite allegations of his mysterious business relationship with Maxwell.

Among the many others who accepted Captain Bob's shilling were Government ministers Lord Donoughue and Helen Liddell, former Tory cabinet heavyweight Peter Walker, Labour peer Lord Williams of Elvel, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, Chairman of United News and Media and of Express newspapers, and Sir Michael Richardson, chairman of stockbrokers Smith New Court. Of those, Lord Donoughue remains in office as junior minister of agriculture. This despite his failure to blow the whistle during the 18 months before Maxwell's death, when Robert and his son Kevin were breaking the rules in their trusteeship of shares owned by the public.

If anything symbolises the exploitation of the British reluctance to shame wrongdoers, it is Lord Donoughue's apparently effortless ability to retain a position in Government.

Just as Robert Maxwell's resurrection in the Eighties depended upon the sympathy of prominent Labour Party stalwarts, his former employees are now shielded by the Labour Prime Minister. Exactly eight years ago, Donoughue met Robert and Kevin Maxwell in their Holborn office to protest about just one of the many Maxwell frauds.

If Donoughue had made public his worries, many millions of pounds - and much misery could have been avoided.

Desperately, Kevin was telephoning bankers to stave off the empire's bankruptcy. His father owed more than [pounds sterling]1 billion and was already misusing the pension funds to bolster his financial accounts. …

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COVER-Up! It Is Seven Years since the [Pounds Sterling]2billion Fraud of Maxwell Was Exposed and Still No One -- Repeat No One -- Has Been Found Guilty of Any Wrongdoing. in Fact, Many in His Empire Have Flourished -- a Devastating Indictment of the Way the Establishment Always Looks after Its Own .
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