Former Guinness boss fights on

 

ERNEST Saunders, the disgraced former chairman of the Guinness drinks group, said yesterday that he and his legal advisers were considering a fresh legal action to clear his name.

Mr Saunders, who the European Court of Human Rights had earlier found to have been unfairly convicted in a share-rigging case, told journalists: "My advisers and I will now be considering all the options open to us legally and otherwise in the UK."

He said he would have been acquitted at his original fraud trial if evidence now discredited by the European court had been ruled inadmissible. The court found that the right of a defendant not to have to give self-incriminating evidence, and the right to remain silent, were recognised internationally as being fundamental to a fair trial.

Mr Saunders said that testimony used at his trial had been drawn out of him by investigators from Britain's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the threat of imprisonment. He said that the evidence gathered by the DTI inspectors "formed a significant part of the prosecution", and added: "My position is that, had these interviews not been used, I would have been acquitted."

Mr Saunders was sentenced to a five-year jail term in 1990 on charges of false accounting, theft and conspiracy. The case centred on payments made to artificially inflate Guinness share prices at a time when the company was in the throes of a takeover bid for the Distillers drinks group.

Mr Saunders said: "The use of DTI transcripts as evidence is just the tip of the iceberg in a totally unfair and politically-managed process to which I have been subjected in the UK."

He added: "Everyone in the UK, even senior business people, have basic rights which must be protected. The government should not be allowed to manipulate the legal process to suit its political agenda."

London had previously expressed its disappointment at the European court ruling and said that it would study the decision to see what implications there were for British company regulation and criminal prosecutions.