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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 15:58 GMT
Guinness trial juror 'in corruption probe'

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating allegations of corruption involving a juror in the 1986 Guinness trial, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Lord Justice Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Collins and Mr Justice Leveson, said some of the issues under investigation might amount to "no more than gossip or hearsay".


We have discussed the problem and we would need some convincing that we can just brush it aside

Lord Justice Judge
However, if certain facts were to be established, the allegations would "obviously be of significance", the judge said.

"We have discussed the problem and we would need some convincing that we can just brush it aside," he added.

Few details of the allegations were revealed in open court on Thursday during a preliminary hearing concerning Jack Lyons, the financier who is appealing against his conviction in the Guinness scandal.

Convictions referred

Three others involved in the alleged illegal share-support racket - Ernest Saunders, Gerald Ronson and Anthony Parnes - have also had their convictions referred back to the appeal court in an attempt to clear their names.

The four men were convicted in 1990 of involvement in a conspiracy to drive up the price of Guinness shares during a takeover battle.

Mr Parnes' counsel, Julian Knowles, who on Thursday submitted papers to the court regarding the corruption allegations, said there appeared to be "a slight dichotomy as to what the position was, whether it was a juror or a relative of the juror".

Jack Lyons
Jack Lyons: Preliminary appeal hearing
He added: "The police have been interviewed, they have given their recollections and it now rests on the individual in question."

The investigation is expected to end on 30 March when statements from all the SFO officers involved will be sent to the court and defence lawyers by the Treasury solicitor.

A further directions hearing will be held on 4 April.

Fresh appeals

The fresh appeals, referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, are likely to begin in May or June.

Mr Lyons, now 84 and suffering from cancer, is determined to clear his name before his death.

He was fined 3m for his role in the Guinness affair.

Anthony Parnes
Anthony Parnes: Counsel submitted papers
Mr Saunders, chief executive of Guinness at the time of the 2.6bn takeover of Distillers in 1986, was jailed for five years in 1990 after being convicted of false accounting, theft and conspiracy.

His sentence was halved on appeal and he was released from open prison after serving only 10 months when doctors decided he was suffering from dementia.

Mr Ronson was sentenced to 12 months and fined 5m after being convicted of two counts of false accounting, one count of theft, and of conspiracy to contravene the Prevention of Fraud Act 1958.

Mr Parnes was convicted of four counts of false accounting and two counts of theft, and had his original sentence of two-and-a-half years reduced to 21 months on appeal in May 1991.

Initial appeals against conviction failed, but later the European Court of Human Rights ruled the men had had an unfair trial because they had been compelled to provide information to Department of Trade and Industry inspectors which was then used against them as primary evidence in the trial.

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