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MG Rover probe is 'electioneering'

MG Rover may be investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) following the completion of a Government inquiry into its demise.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson has asked the SFO to consider the case after studying the findings of independent inspectors.

But former MG Rover dealer council chairman Richard Cort believes there is no evidence to suggest fraudulent behaviour in the collapse of MG Rover. “To me, it smacks of electioneering,” he told AM.

As a member of the creditors’ committee, Cort was involved with an earlier report on the administration of MG Rover published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which found no suggestion of improper conduct at the company.

The inquiry, which has cost £16 million since MG Rover’s administration in 2005, has had its report’s publication stalled by this latest development “in order to ensure any potential prosecution is not prejudiced”.

The four executives in charge of MG Rover’s parent group Phoenix Venture Holdings when it collapsed – John Towers, John Edwards, Peter Beale and Nick Stephenson – deny wrongdoing and have suggested the fraud investigation is a ploy by Mandelson to delay the publication of report.

It is expected to be critical of the Government’s part in the affair – especially then Trade Secretary Stephen Byers’ decision to back Phoenix’s over-ambitious plans for Rover when BMW shed it in 2000, and the £6 million loan advanced to Phoenix while it tried to broker Rover’s sale to SAIC shortly before it collapsed in 2005 owing £1.3 billion in 2005.

Cort said: “I would love to find out if something has gone on because I lost an awful lot of money but I have never seen anything that constitutes fraud.”

“If they have turned up something, then let’s declare it. The taxpayer in this country has a right to know.”

He added: “All the evidence I have seen so far does not lead me to believe anything improper has gone on.”

 

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