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1990: 'Guinness Four' guilty

All four defendants in the marathon Guinness trial are facing jail after the jury returned "guilty" verdicts following five days of deliberations.

Ernest Saunders, Gerald Ronson, Sir Jack Lyons and Anthony Parnes were convicted on all but one of the charges they faced.

The verdicts on the 112th day of the case ended the most expensive court action in British legal history at a cost of around 7.5m.

The men were accused of involvement in a conspiracy to drive up the price of shares in Guinness, makers of the eponymous stout, during a 1986 takeover battle for the drinks company, Distillers.

Former Guinness chairman Ernest Saunders, 54, was the central figure in the trial.

He earned widespread praise for pulling off the 2.6bn takeover of Distillers, trumping a bid from foods group Argyll.

But Saunders' downfall came about after the arrest for insider dealing of US stockbroker Ivan Boesky.

In a plea bargain, Boesky told the US authorities of the share dealing arrangement involving Guinness and an investigation was started.

In its case against the four, the Department of Trade and Industry alleged Saunders had agreed to pay stockbroker Anthony Parnes 3.35m for his role in the affair.

Lyons, a financier, had received 3m for his part in the scheme, the DTI alleged.

And companies in Ronson's Heron group which bought 25m worth of Guinness shares during the bid were in line for a 5m "success fee" for their support.

Saunders, Ronson and Lyons were convicted of conspiracy, theft and false accounting.

Parnes, 45, was found guilty on the theft and false accounting charges.

Judge Mr Justice Henry is due to sentence the men tomorrow.

In Context
Saunders, Ronson and Parnes were sentenced to periods ranging from 12 months to five years.

Ronson, 51, was also fined 5m.

Saunders was freed after only 10 months of his 30 month sentence when doctors diagnosed him as suffering from dementia.

Lyons, 74, escaped jail because of ill health but was stripped of his knighthood and fined 3m.

In 1996 Saunders' conviction was ruled "unsafe" by the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2000 the court reached the same verdict in cases brought by the remaining three. However, in 2001 the UK's Court of Appeal threw out the men's claim not to have received a fair trial.


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