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Thursday, March 11, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT


Maxwell cleared over Mirror inquiry

Kevin Maxwell says he could not afford legal representation

Kevin Maxwell has been cleared of contempt of court in connection with an inquiry into the financial affairs of the Mirror Group.

Mr Maxwell, the elder son of late media tycoon Robert Maxwell, was cleared over his refusal to submit to interrogation by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) inspectors.

BBC correspondent Jonty Bloom: "Kevin Maxwell refused to co-operate"
A High Court judge said the potential burden that questioning might place on Mr Maxwell - who could not afford legal representation - could be unfair.

It was "at risk of going beyond that which an unrepresented individual can reasonably be required to accept", Vice-Chancellor Sir Richard Scott said.

The DTI inspectors should keep their questions to a minimum and tell Mr Maxwell in advance what they wanted to ask him about, Sir Richard said.

If this was done, Mr Maxwell would have no further excuse for refusing to answer, he added.

Maxwell 'disadvantaged'

The questions were focusing on the £500m flotation of the company eight years ago - a matter which, at a hearing last month, Mr Maxwell described as "of unique complexity".

[ image: The inquiry followed the death of Robert Maxwell in 1991]
The inquiry followed the death of Robert Maxwell in 1991
The two inspectors began their inquiry in June 1992, following the death of Mirror Group owner Maxwell in 1991.

The inquiry was halted while Kevin Maxwell and others stood trial on charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office over his father's business dealings, but resumed after Mr Maxwell was acquitted on all counts in 1996.

The inspectors have now heard 171 witnesses in person and received written evidence from 105 others.

They want to question Mr Maxwell, but he sees himself as seriously disadvantaged if he is not legally represented.

Inquiry 'unfair'

The inquiry could lead to further criminal charges and moves to disqualify him from holding company directorships, he said.

Mr Maxwell, 39, who now works in telecommunications, said after the ruling the judge had come down firmly in favour of his argument that he was being treated oppressively and unfairly.

"Unless they change their procedures, there is no obligation on me to answer questions," he said. "I have always said I would answer if they created a set of fair procedures and a fair regime.

"Now the court has decided to protect me as an individual. It's a victory for common sense and it's what I wanted in the first place."

Mr Maxwell added that he had borrowed £15,000 to obtain a solicitor's advice so he could conduct his own defence in court, and he would be seeking to recover those costs from the DTI.

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