Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex TT

Transcript of interview with Dr Sami Ahmed

held on 11 April 2001

(As corrected by Dr Sami Ahmed and Elizabeth Filkin)

MS FILKIN: Thank you, Dr Ahmed, for coming to see me this morning, it is very good of you. What I would like to do if I may, so I have got the right things for the record, is to check with you that your title at Transfer Technology in 1990-91 was Managing Director. Is that correct?

DR AHMED: I was Managing Director of one of the divisions, and main Board Director of the Group.

MS FILKIN: Which division were you in?

DR AHMED: It was Control Manufacturing Technology Division. This is after becoming a plc. Before that, during the period before that, which is 1990, I was Managing Director, yes.

MS FILKIN: Thank you. Were you a shareholder in 1990?


MS FILKIN: Just for the record, if I may, perhaps you would give me your current title and your present role?

DR AHMED: I am right now Managing Director of a company called Smart Technology Limited. It is an engineering company.

MS FILKIN: What I am doing - and I ought to start off by explaining what my role is - I am making an inquiry on behalf of Parliament into what Mr Robinson said to Parliament through the Standards and Privileges Select Committee in 1998. The complaint that I am dealing with is that he misled the Committee in 1998. That is what I have to look into. What happened in his companies, your companies, your work, etc. is not my affair. I have got to understand some things that happened in Mr Robinson's companies so I can understand whether or not he did mislead the Committee. Of course, I am only looking at whether Mr Robinson told the truth at the time. He may of course have more information now that might change what he had to say; so I have to focus very much on: did he tell them the truth in 1998 as he knew it? Of course, as part of that, I have to look at whether that was the whole of the story? If I could start off by asking you to tell me about the plans for selling Transfer Technology that were being drawn up in 1990. What were those plans; and to whom was it intended to sell the company?

DR AHMED: I know I must answer specific questions but I think it sometimes helps if I give you the background because I think it is very important. Transfer Technology Limited, the company which was in 1990, was a small company. We started in 1981. Mr Robinson was the Chairman; I was the second person there, Technical Director, then Managing Director and so on. The company was run in a different way than any traditional company, because we were really doing very high tech sort of equipment; ahead of our time we were dealing with things there. We recruited the best people we could come across. We thought it was good, for example, to get students from local schools in the first year and carry on with them until they finished their education and so on. Therefore, if you like, the atmosphere there was a bit different. Mr Robinson, of course, was a Member of Parliament at that time so he would be coming and going very regularly and he could not be there full-time. Also he lives in Guildford which is far away from Birmingham. Therefore, I was really running the whole thing there. I think it is important also to understand that we were working from one office. We did not have lots of offices. Geoffrey would be sharing the same office with me. We instated a rule there, a no private letter campaign. Any letter comes there will be opened centrally and given to Geoffrey or myself before it was distributed to anybody. Many people did not like this but it was a rule there. This gives you a little idea that the company was open, especially within the top group. There was no hierarchy. Apart from Geoffrey and myself, everybody else was working in a flat structure. I was working with Geoffrey for a long time. I knew from the beginning that Geoffrey's interest was not really to be in a company with ten people selling for a million pounds. He wanted to be with 2,000 people selling for £200 million. Therefore, from day one he was looking for ways of going public because he did not want really to be in a small company in (inaudible) - he wanted to be in a bigger company and so on. Of course, he could not do this overnight, so we kept working our own way. In 1989 we acquired another company which was Sarclad. In 1990 we were expecting to be doing £10 million turnover and about a million pound profit. I think we were told this was about right for going for a little bit bigger steps. When Geoffrey realised this would be the case, it was not really my choice; I would rather work in a small company which I know well and I have hands-on knowledge with everything going on there and I know everybody; but of course Geoffrey wanted to be a much bigger company and I think it is interesting and exciting, and a different sort of experience for all of us. When we got the opportunity - he tried different things before but it did not work, like floating outright. At one stage they said, "If you do £10 million and £1 million profit this would be fine"; and then we were told, "No way", that this cannot work. I think with Geoffrey's links with the Central & Sheerwood company, it was an engineering company, so he felt if we put a number of companies together it would be a reverse takeover. Transfer Technology Limited becomes part of this, and I think he would be able to take his opportunity to become the Chairman. He really asked me, "Would you be interested to be involved in the higher hierarchy there?" He thought perhaps I would not like it because I am a technical person. So I said, "I would like to be part of this because it is a different experience. It is something different and so on". I think in 1990, when we realised that we are about to be a large small company, if you like, it is time we should see a way of doing this. Just to identify this route through Central & Sheerwood.

MS FILKIN: He was Chairman of Central and Sheerwood?

DR AHMED: I do not think he was Chairman; he was a Director there. I think Mr Maxwell was Chairman of Central & Sheerwood at that time. Really the plans were there, why Geoffrey was interested in a number of Central & Sheerwood companies, he was very much involved with them: two companies, A L Dunn and Coventry Apex, two companies making casting and parts for the automotive industry; and two other companies of Mr Maxwell's, Lock Inspection and BSS and Transtec was Geoffrey's company. Putting them together would be the nucleus for building up an engineering company which can be interesting and can be profitable and so on. This was the plan in 1990. This was what he was originally targeting for.

MS FILKIN: By the December of that year had you actually made the decision to sell it?

DR AHMED: You have to remember we are talking about 11 years ago.

MS FILKIN: Of course.

DR AHMED: I do not have any record of anything. I have to rely on what was going on at the time which I can remember. I remember during the time we were doing the Longform Report(?).

MS FILKIN: Absolutely, and that had been completed at the end of the November?

DR AHMED: Yes, the reason the Longform Report was prepared was for the reverse takeover. I think that we were very much in the position to be moving ahead at that time.

MS FILKIN: I understand from that Longform Report that there were some outstanding debts which Transfer Technology had at that time. Can you recall what they were?

DR AHMED: I think you have to remember as well that I have been through a DTI inquiry for the same thing, so this is what refreshed my mind a little bit, otherwise I would not have remembered if somebody asked me this question now. Certainly I know, because it is very dear to my heart, the product which we were selling; one of the equipment we were selling, was what we call an electric discharge texturing machine, an EDT machine, which we sold one for the Roll Centre. Roll Centre was one of our customer but at the same time it was owned by Mr Robinson. The machine was sold, if I remember, for about £800,000 or $800,000, but it is more likely £800,000. Then they have paid some and there was some which was outstanding.

MS FILKIN: As far as you know, was that the only sizeable debt?

DR AHMED: I mentioned to you that our turnover that year was £10 million, so there must be other debts because you never sell anything for cash (full immediate payment); you do not get all the money there so it takes time until you collect it. I think at that time we were selling a machine to Turkey, another EDT, and I remember this was about £1.5 million. People pay 30 per cent. and so on, and 60 per cent. when you deliver, and 10 per cent. later. So there would be lots of trade debtors there, but most of these would be either by letter of credit or -----

MS FILKIN: Ordinary trade debtors?

DR AHMED: Ordinary trade debtors, yes. I am not aware of any other debtors. I may have seen loan which Mr Robinson has given the Roll Centre, but this is something which would be a short-term thing. I would not have known about bigger debts I do not know. As far as I am concerned, there were no big debtors for anybody, apart from the trade debtors which we were aware of.

MS FILKIN: That debt was referred to in the Longform Report. Do you remember it being discussed as to why it was of concern?

DR AHMED: When you sell pieces of equipment, we are not selling standard equipment, we sell the EDT machines for example, it is retro- fitted on an existing machine so it takes a little bit of time until we get it sorted out. Sometimes it takes a much longer time in order to finalise the installation and get our money completely. Sometimes we would have a problem in collecting all the money. If you have an accountant they will put some risk, 30 or 40 per cent. of the money due, and they will be saying, "Are you sure you're going to get it?" If somebody asked me this question I say, "Yes, we hope we are going to get it, but how sure - this depends on many other things". There is always a little bit of a question mark until the money is collected, yes; but this is trade debtors, yes.

MS FILKIN: You do not recall what the reason was for referring to that debt in the Longform Report?

DR AHMED: I think they would be referring to all debtors.

MS FILKIN: No, they were particularly referring to that one because it also included a loan from Mr Robinson.

DR AHMED: I am guessing now, because Mr Robinson is the owner of Roll Centre and this is a trade debtor and it has to be highlighted because it is not a debt with Hitatchi, for example, in Japan; it is with Mr Robinson and it has to be highlighted. It is not a surprise that it is highlighted; and especially it is not just a trade debtor, it is trade debtors and a loan. If I am the accountant I will be saying to people, the City, the shareholders, when they acquired Transfer Technology we had to be aware of these sort of things.

MS FILKIN: Were you aware of any particular debts outstanding from Sarclad at the time?

DR AHMED: Sarclad was part of Transfer; it is a subsidiary. Really the £10 million would be the same thing. I cannot draw a line between this and this. I was Managing Director of Sarclad and Transfer Technology, so this EDT will be a Sarclad debt the line between this and this has gone. I think you have to understand one important point that we had Transfer Technology, TransTec Inc in the United States, and we had Sarclad Int Ltd here and Sarclad Inc in the United States. The way business was conducted - and this is the American interest there - they do not like to buy machines from Sarclad International in Chesterfield; so they buy it from Sarclad Inc in Pittsburgh at that time. Therefore the debt will be for Sarclad Inc. Sarclad Inc will be collecting this money and then transfer it to us. The tendency - and this something which I hated from our people working there - if they send the money to us in England then if they needed any money they had to ask us for it. They tended to sit on it. I say, "Would it be very likely that they collect some money", and they say, "We keep asking them to transfer it to us". There will be a few hundred thousand dollars, pounds or something which will be transferred either from TransTec Inc or from Sarclad Inc. because they do not incur any costs. We make the equipment, send it to them and they collect the whole amount of money. It will be an internal struggle to get this money from them. There will be debtors there but it is not really trade debtors; it is really collecting money on our behalf and it is a matter of time to make a transfer to the head office here.

MS FILKIN: Going back to the Roll Centre debt, which included a loan from Mr Robinson, do you remember discussing that particular loan with Mr Robinson at the time?

DR AHMED: I do not remember, no. I cannot recall that at all. I think my understanding of this, the company (Roll Centre), we were short of money and did not have lots of money to lend to anybody. If Mr Robinson, who owns 100 per cent. of the company, finds that there is some money required for the Roll Centre which is available here, I think it is fair to say, "Alright", if he transfers this money. I think it was always short-term. Right now I have just acquired two companies in Halifax and I do exactly the same thing. If I need some money in one company I just transfer it from here to there and then we sort it out, not at the year end, at some time; because it is really taking from one pocket to another in this respect. As long as it is really counted and it was kept track of, then I cannot see anything wrong with this. I do not think Geoffrey will say, "I need $100,000 there, can I take it?" If we do not have it then he cannot take this money. If he takes this money and we need it then he has to find us the money, because Mr Robinson was, if you like, who financed the company. If one day we do not have any money he is the one who has to provide this money. If he takes this money to Roll Centre he has the responsibility of bringing the money when we need it in TransTec; and he was providing all the bank guarantees and support for the company. I would not really object if Mr Robinson decides that he wants to take some money, as long as I have enough to run my business which is Transfer Technology in the UK here.

MS FILKIN: You were not involved yourself in approaching anybody in Roll Centre, or approaching Mr Robinson to say, "We've got to get these books cleaned up ready for the plc merger"? You were not involved in those discussions?

DR AHMED: I would not be involved specifically in talking to people running Roll Centre in saying, "You have to bring this money back", and so on. I was involved in everything technical, including Roll Centre business because we supplied machines and so on. So there will be lots of discussions about it.

MS FILKIN: Who did you discuss that with?

DR AHMED: Mostly it is a discussion of installation of the equipment with a gentleman called Holton Easter who was running it and John Summers.

MS FILKIN: I was just focusing entirely on the loan?

DR AHMED: No, I do not think I would have, even if I had an interest I would not really because this is not my area.

MS FILKIN: As far as you know, did anybody offer to settle that debt to Transfer Technology around that time?

DR AHMED: I remember between January 1991 to May 1991 this is the time where we were finalising the deal for this reverse-takeover, Geoffrey had to finalise everything saying some money owed by somebody else, we have to collect this money or find a way, or get somebody to say, "Yes, this money will be paid", because the company is changing hands. There is lots of activity in there. Although I was available, and if I am there it will be discussed with me, at the same time I was very busy. Actually I have my 1991 diary, and I think you would be surprised at the travels which I was doing [sic]. I look there and going to Roll Centre with Mr Robinson, for example; going to Turkey; going to Japan. Lots of travels, not for long periods but it is less likely that it will be discussed. My input is not required in there, but it does not mean that I was not aware, but it is not something where I will be saying, "Geoffrey, you must bring this money back", or anything, because really we are a very, very small company doing lots of things. I am Managing Director but, at the same time, I am the person who is selling all these EDTs. You have a better job to do other than to be involved in this.

MS FILKIN: Of course you had a Finance Director?

DR AHMED: Yes, I had a Finance Director, and Geoffrey was an active Chairman. These sort of things will be more widely handled by Geoffrey and Roger Davis. It does not mean that I am not involved but they will not wait for me to say, "Alright, what are we going to do?" This will be done and I will be informed about it.

MS FILKIN: You were talking then about that period January 1991 to May. I want to take you back into December. Because in December, as you will now know, a payment was made towards that Roll Centre debt according to the Transfer Technology accounts. Do you recall that?

DR AHMED: You know, I think I have seen Roger Davis when he looked at the nominal ledger and he looked at all these figures - there are thousands of pounds which are coming in there at the end of the year, 31 December, this is the entry which he put; and I think it is very difficult for me because I did not have firsthand knowledge about this identifying which is which. I think there is one hundred thousand here, two hundred thousand there, one hundred and forty-seven, so there is lots of money which is coming into to the TransTec account, if you like, at that time. It is very difficult for me, without having the piece of paper which supports what we have there, to say whether this money came from repayment of a loan, or money coming from Roll Centre, or coming from Sarclad Inc, or coming from TransTec Inc, or coming from trade debtors anywhere in the world. I would not be able to help you here.

MS FILKIN: Mr Robinson tells Coopers in the Longform Report that in fact £200,000 was paid off the Roll Centre debt in December. You would not know that?

DR AHMED: Maybe I have known about this at the time, but I would not really be in a position now to say whether he said that. I do not have any reason to doubt this. It means some money came in. I would be more interested in any money -- if there is money which is due from a customer because, you see, the reasons they are not paying on time is they must have any doubt or any problem or we have to do something. I would be more interested - such a thing would be shouting at me why this money has not come from Roll Centre, for example, because we have not had the machine completed. If it is a machine in Turkey, the same time; if it is anywhere. I would be fully aware of this. Possibly now I can remember why when we tried to do something about it; but when it comes to anything like a loan, this loan as far as I am concerned is an accounting thing. Alright if it is coming in, if it is not here we are not really in desperate need of this money so it is less important from my point of view.

MS FILKIN: Perhaps if I could take you on to ask you about the outstanding bill for management services to Lock, the Hollis subsidiary. Could you tell me what that bill was for; what services Transfer Technology have provided?

DR AHMED: Yes, I remember in January in that year, 25 January, I was looking here, "Visit - started 5 a.m." I remember that day, if you remember ten years ago with all the trees falling down during that time, I was a bit concerned Geoffrey told me the day before that we are going to Lock in Oldham. He was coming to pick me up from my house in Sollihull at 5 a.m. I do not know when he started his journey! We went there, and I think we went to Lock on 25 January very early in the morning. I think we were there before anybody. What the interest was, Lock, you see, was one of the companies which Mr Maxwell had and all the management and all key people there left and started a new company, and really what was left of Lock was almost nothing because everybody of any value in the company had been transferred to the other company. In effect, Lock was left empty. Geoffrey was requested - I am sure Mr Maxwell or somebody asked him to look after Lock and sort it out. He asked me to go there, and I think we asked another gentleman from Sarclad, who was in charge of Sarclad, who met us there in Oldham. Geoffrey went there. I looked at all the technical aspects of the company; all their electronics and software and how it is going and what we had to do to identify who was still there and who was capable of making some good work there. From that day onwards, if you like, we were very involved with the -----

MS FILKIN: Did you have an agreement about the services that you would provide?

DR AHMED: No, I do not think there was. I think this is something which maybe people would be surprised about. This was not the first time, I think this is Geoffrey's style. Geoffrey will find an opportunity like this. Instead of wasting time and talking about, "Are you going to pay us X amount of money, plus expenses", and this sort of thing, he will do, "Alright, I'll start for you", and then I think it becomes, "If we manage to do a good job and the company is working well, you can ask for the management charge and so on". It happened before. I remember 1983-84 a company called Agie which is a Swiss company which is in EDM, they have a company which they work with here in the UK and this company went into receivership. So the Swiss before they knew there was a problem there, Geoffrey went and collected these people who worked in this company and employed them and put them to work in one office next to my office in TransTec without really any agreement with anybody. He carried on taking care of all customers of the company. Two months later Agie realised there was a problem with their company and this was what got them talking to Geoffrey, because Geoffrey really held the company together, continued providing support and he was able to get a reasonable deal with them for his services and services which were provided.

MS FILKIN: Let me take you back if I could to this particular set of services for Lock.

DR AHMED: It is similar to this.

MS FILKIN: When you get to the autumn of 1990 and you are into planning the merger acquisition in your mind and managing this business, were you expecting a fee from Hollis for management services?

DR AHMED: Yes, I was expecting fees from Hollis, not at December but this would be from January onwards. In January I went there to sort it out and I thought it was just one day for us.

MS FILKIN: I understand that, but I am talking about November.

DR AHMED: What happened after that, because the company did not have enough structure there and the area of electronics and software, I remember having the people working on the electronics and software there in Coleshill. I do not remember his surname, Bell I think, he was working with us in TransTec and doing the development work. I do not have any records of this, but I remember there was a video tape prepared for TransTec at that time, and I remember showing them, "This is a development programme which is going for Lock", and the guy, Bell, and his work; and all our engineers were participating in this development work. We have done reasonable work which justifies in our mind to collect some sensible

--- I think this £200,000 was something which was in our minds - we are going to get this money from Lock for our work which is there. Your question there: were we expecting money? Yes. Is this money justified? We have done work. Yes. Why I remember this, I remember in presentations we were saying how wonderful Lock would be because it was a good industry where we were, aerospace, automotive and steel, so this was something which would add to the strength of the company and so on. I remember this from the video, as I said. I do not have any copies of this video but Bernard O'Sullivan, Geoffrey's lawyer, I sent him copies about two years ago so he may have this one there. You can see people saying we have a management contract for Lock. Again, this management contract has never been written; it was not really identified how much anybody was going to be paid; but we were working on the assumption, alright, once we sort it out and get Lock working we would be able to get some money.

MS FILKIN: You did not know about the letter setting out these services that had gone to Hollis, setting out the fee, from Mr Robinson?

DR AHMED: I think the invoice which has been published -----

MS FILKIN: No, I do not mean that; I mean much before that. You did not know about that?

DR AHMED: I would not have known. I may have known about it at the time but I would not remember, because it is pretty normal. Mr Robinson would not have any difficulty. The secretary who was typing his letters is my secretary, and she is still working for me now. She is the same person who was working in 1984 until today. I know the way in which she would work. I think Geoffrey would dictate something and she would type it and send it to him. Usually if I am sitting there, she would show it to me; but if I am not there, they are not going to say, "Alright, we'll keep this one". I will tell you my opinion .....(end of side A of the tape)

MS FILKIN: May I go through it. You are saying that in October and November you did expect at some point to get this fee from Hollis?


MS FILKIN: The figure you had in your mind was about £200,000?


MS FILKIN: Did you see that as a payment that was due to Transfer Technology, or a payment that was due to Geoffrey Robinson personally?

DR AHMED: I think I would have seen it as both. I could not see a line between Geoffrey and TransTec. Geoffrey owns 100 per cent. of TransTec. If this money was paid to him then it means that he put more effort in, more than anybody, because he used to be going there more regularly than me.

MS FILKIN: But were you expecting a fee to come in to Transfer Technology?

DR AHMED: I would not be surprised if it comes to TransTec. I would not be surprised if part of it would be going to Geoffrey, because Geoffrey was doing a lot of service himself, as running the company. This is Lock and people are reporting to him and getting his reports regularly from him from January through that time. Geoffrey was the Chief Executive. He was the one looking after Lock. I would not be surprised if it is paid to us or paid to Geoffrey. In my opinion it did not make much difference, because Geoffrey's money, all of it, was held in TransTec. He did not have money, all the money which he owned it was owed by the company. I think the line was very difficult to draw. If the money came, I was expecting it to be TransTec, because we had people working there and were paying them money and supporting them and spending, and we never had any money from them. I would be expecting it more to TransTec, if you like.

MS FILKIN: Go back to what you were talking about when I butted in. Were you aware that Geoffrey Robinson had raised an invoice for those services on 24th October 1990?

DR AHMED: I would say, I would not have seen this, for a simple reason - because invoices (inaudible). I would have corrected this one by saying, "Alright, if you want to put Orchards ..., he cannot pay for Transfer Technology Limited". If you ask somebody, pay me, and pay Transfer Technology Limited. How come you cannot do this? If you are raising it by Transfer Technology Limited then we have to add the VAT. The invoice as it looked there, it seems a very amateurish sort of thing. It is very likely Geoffrey has dictated this. It has been done very quickly. I think he may have agreed that this money would be paid. I think this is something which will be just to state the amount of money and so on, and this will be handled in a different way later on. This would be my assumption. I would not remember this being raised with me because maybe I was not there on 24th October. I do not know where I was at that time, this is one thing. Secondly, if I was there, if I had seen it this way I would have said that this is not the right way to raise an invoice because it did not look right, because it is in Geoffrey's name and not Transfer Technology.

MS FILKIN: You said you were anticipating this fee for part of the work that was done by your staff within Transfer Technology?


MS FILKIN: Why then was it not referred to in the Longform Report as a fee that was expected?

DR AHMED: I think there are two reasons, and I am guessing now. One of the reasons in my mind that Lock was part of the arrangement which we had there. Lock would be part of the acquisition. Lock would be part of the new company which would be created. In effect, I think I was seeing this as: we sorted out the situation that it will be available to become part of the group and, therefore, I felt this one as an indirect benefit which we get in there. Because if we did not do that, if we left Lock without any help at all from us then it would be worth nothing at that time.

MS FILKIN: Let me be correct about that. You were expecting it into Transfer Technology. Therefore, one would have expected, as many of your other fees were shown in the Longform report and for that fee to have been shown within the books of Transfer Technology; even if you, at the end of the day, did not collect it?

DR AHMED: But, you see, we did not raise the invoice from Transfer Technology.

MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

DR AHMED: In this case, if (inaudible) were doing this and saying, "Alright, we may get £200,000 for work which we are doing from January until now and we haven't raised any invoice for this", I think this would be questionable. The other point which I think will answer partly this, the financial agreement between Geoffrey and the group, if you like, that he will be getting ten times after tax as his multiples. He will sell Transfer Technology Limited for whatever profit we are going to make multiplied by ten.

MS FILKIN: You want to show as great a profit as possible?

DR AHMED: Yes, but we want to show this, but at the same time who is going to pay this money? This is something which the accountant who is there, if they allow £200,000 to come in it will mean £2 million extra on price. They will be saying, "Alright, you haven't collected this money, and it means you are increasing Geoffrey's profit". People will be questioning this.

MS FILKIN: When you say "people"?

DR AHMED: I am thinking about Maxwell people. I think it was Charterhouse. It means they would say, "This debt has not materialised because he Transtec has not raised an invoice". It was really something which was almost forgotten about. Because we say now the bigger things, that Lock will be part of the group, and these people who were working with us will become formally part of the same company which all of us will be part of. I am trying to find how --- you know, this is not the only, if you like, deal we tried to do which did not come with anything. I think I look at this one, if you think about the effort which we will do for Rolls Royce, for example, to convince them to buy something from us and we spend weeks and weeks and days to develop something, and then we may end with a very good success. Sometimes you end with, "Thank you very much, you still need to do more work". It is pretty normal. You always look forward and do not look back and say what we could have had for this. If I remember, if we imagine we are sitting now with Coopers(?) talking about thisLongform Report, of course we were looking at every penny in order to help how much we sell the company for. If you say, "This is £200,000 and this will be no cost incurred for this because all cost was written off, yes, we will go by £200,000 but our profit will go also by £200,000", I think there will be a big question about taking this into consideration because there is no agreement, there is no contract. There was no contract which we had there.

MS FILKIN: You have not seen it?

DR AHMED: I have not seen it. Between TransTec and ------

MS FILKIN: No, between Mr Robinson and Hollis.

DR AHMED: I do not think there was one between TransTec. We were talking about one but, as far as I am aware, there was none.

MS FILKIN: Right, now I understand.

DR AHMED: Geoffrey was involved with A L Dunn and Apex; and I know he got £150,000 from Mr Maxwell for his work there. Most of these meetings were held in TransTec in the same office I am in now. I know the people who were coming there. I have never been involved in this because it is not part of my technical expertise.

MS FILKIN: I understand, thank you. If the fee was anticipated - and you have explained why you did not put it in the books as anticipated, and why you did not add it in to the possible profit and I understand that now - but why, if that was the case, was Roger Davis unaware of all of that?

DR AHMED: Unaware of what?

MS FILKIN: He was unaware that there was any fee due to Transfer Technology for management services delivered by the company?

DR AHMED: I think this supports what I am saying. Because there was no contract; there was no invoice; there was no agreement on anything. We were doing this work in anticipation. I think if Roger says people were not working for Lock and only doing work for them there he would be wrong.

MS FILKIN: No, I have asked you about the anticipated fee which you tell me you anticipated, and Mr Robinson has told me he anticipated. What the question is: you were Managing Director, why would your Finance Director not know that?

DR AHMED: He must have known about it because we were talking about it.

MS FILKIN: Are you saying he is lying?

DR AHMED: I am not saying he is lying.

MS FILKIN: That is what he says.

DR AHMED: He may not remember.

MS FILKIN: No, what he says is he did not know about it, not that he does not remember.

DR AHMED: He has to explain this.

MS FILKIN: So you are saying that is not true?

DR AHMED: I am saying it is true that we were doing work and I think -----

MS FILKIN: Did you ever talk to your Finance Director about that anticipated fee?

DR AHMED: I do not recall talking to him specifically on this, but it was general knowledge we had people there. My point, in 1990 when we recorded a video tape about the company activities and everybody had seen it, we were saying that we are doing management work for Lock and this work will be for Lock and had people working there.

MS FILKIN: When you are preparing your forward management accounts for your expected income, and I have seen how frequently Roger Davis was preparing such accounts and I have seen the detail in which they were done and you would have been looking at them. It would be usual in most companies to build in the anticipated fee, if you were anticipating it as he was doing for other expected payments which he expected people to pay. He did not do that for this particular fee.. At any of those points when you saw those forward management accounts did you never draw it to his attention, that he left out the anticipated fee?

DR AHMED: I would say, although we were expecting, and I have mentioned, £200,000 because this was raised at the time - we know that we were doing this work, it was not something which we can 100 per cent. say that we have this because, as I told you, as far as I am aware there was no written contract. We are talking about something in October/November and we were doing this work from January. It would be illogical to say, "Yes, we expect some money", if we haven't really finalised and agreed exactly how much this money will be. It is almost like working with a customer hoping to get a contract. This would be in anticipation, like any other customer which we are working with. If you are talking about forecasting money, this is something else. I am just saying this is anticipated, certainly by me; I am sure Roger must have known about it, but whether he has taken it into consideration when putting all potential forecasts - this is something which perhaps he was too prudent, thinking this is something he is not sure ----

MS FILKIN: No, that is not what he has said.

DR AHMED: If he did not know about it this is something else. I cannot really answer for him. All I can tell you is that I was aware of this.

MS FILKIN: Did you ever discuss it with your Finance Director?

DR AHMED: I do not remember discussing it with him, but it does not mean I have not.

MS FILKIN: I accept that; but you cannot recall ever ------

DR AHMED: I cannot recall discussing it with him, no. I cannot also recall not discussing it with him.[112]

MS FILKIN: You will know now from your discussions with the DTI Inspector that in fact a Pergamon cheque for £200,000 was debited against the Pergamon accounts at approximately the same time as the £200,000 came into the TransTec accounts to pay off the Roll Centre debt. When you have reflected on that information are you of the view that that cheque was the cheque that paid off that debt?

DR AHMED: I have no doubt in my mind of two things: I think you are linking them together, I would not have - there was money coming in and out which is for trade debtors and different things which would be there. If you ask me, if we had £10 million it is very likely about £800,000 every month would be coming to the company one way or another. If you are selling for £10 million a year if you divide by 12 it will be something like that. There will be money coming in and out. This is something which I would not remember now exactly what money came in and what money went out. When you are asking, did we get money from Mr Maxwell, which is this cheque for £200,000, if it has come to TransTec as a cheque for £200,000 from Hollis, Pergamon or whatever, I would have known about this for a simple reason: £200,000 is not a small amount of money; it is even more because if I am selling one machine for a million pounds we will spend money on materials, we will spend money on labour, we will spend money on commission, people travelling, so the net value for the company will be no more than a few hundred thousand pound. If this money was a management fee coming to us with no cost incurred then it would be almost like a million pound, not the £200,000 only. For a company like us, if this money comes to us it would be a major thing coming to us. If it came to us directly saying that, "This money, £200,000, is coming to you from Pergamon in Transfer Technology Limited's name", all of us would have known about this. The atmosphere, the situation which we had there, the way the company was run, the openness which was there really would have allowed me as first person to know about this; Roger would have known about it as well.

MS FILKIN: As you have said, if it had come that way, it would have had VAT added to it?

DR AHMED: And would have come with VAT added in, and would have come in our records. In that time, I do not know when the final Longform Report was written, but it was during that time there would be continuous coming and going and anything like this; because our year end was coming as well. All this would have appeared very clearly and without any doubt about it.

MS FILKIN: But that would not be the same for £200,000 that came in to pay off the Roll Centre debt?

DR AHMED: Of course, if money comes to pay the Roll Centre debt this money would be coming from a different source.

MS FILKIN: Where would it have come from if it was to pay off that debt?

DR AHMED: I would not know now. Even if somebody tells me that we got £200,000 which is part of the loan, then I am sure that Geoffrey would have arranged for this either from Madame Bourgeois paying this one, and maybe one of his brothers; I think his brother - they sold their business but I do not know if it was that time or before that. There would be ways. May be Roll Centre has done some business for which they created some income to pay this money back.

MS FILKIN: Are you of the view that Mr Robinson would have been involved in organising that payment?

DR AHMED: If this money is paid by Roll Centre and it is part of payment of his loan then Mr Robinson will be aware of this, and he will be doing that. For me, if somebody comes to say to me that we have got £200,000 for Mr Robinson's loan which is being paid, this is not news. If we have this money, I can honestly say - and in my belief it will show he has given it to us before - I would say 100 per cent. certain that this money would not have come from Maxwell. I think I have a very reasonable memory. It was very good before.

MS FILKIN: Mr Robinson says you have a very good memory!

DR AHMED: No, I am thinking about now. I am struggling a bit. I would say, if something like this happened I would have remembered that. I did not used to write anything. I always worked from memory, and this is why I like it more if I worked with 50 or 60 people, because I do not need to keep records and I would remember everything. I am just saying, if it had come this way we would have known about it. Let us assume Mr Robinson has taken this cheque and he paid it somehow in the United States and got this money to be transferred to come to us as payment of this loan, I would not have known about it.

MS FILKIN: Have you got any record in your diary for around early December where you would have noticed that that might have come in, say, from 7th December onwards?

DR AHMED: I can tell you this is 3rd May visit to Bridgeport. I think on 10th December we went to Turkey.

MS FILKIN: They have just got your visits in?

DR AHMED: This is a diary which puts in visits and so on. No, I would not have had any record of this, I think. This is why -----

MS FILKIN: On to 10th December?

DR AHMED: I was back from Ankara. This is somebody from India. This is my son's school and I was going to do some talk to them. There was no record of this. Clearly in my mind, if money has come direct to TransTec or in Geoffrey's name but paid to TransTec I would have known this immediately. If it has gone in a different roundabout way -----

MS FILKIN: To pay off the loan?

DR AHMED: Yes, but if it has come direct to TransTec to pay off the loan we would not have known about it.

MS FILKIN: Yes, I understand.

DR AHMED: I am just saying, if it was put in our account direct I think we would have known about it. If it had a little bit of a tour before coming to us this would be a different situation.

MS FILKIN: Of course, I understand what you are saying.

DR AHMED: Just because I remember what happened there, one of the reasons I feel strongly it is very unlikely that this was the case, Mr Robinson had £150,000 before that at the same time which was from Maxwell as well for the work with A L Dunn and Coventry Apex, and this went to his account and was declared. If he has taken £200,000 in the same way at the same time why would he have treated it differently? I have known Geoffrey for 20 years, and Geoffrey as anybody, like me, like anybody, will try to take a risk and do everything, but I have never seen him at any time during the 20 years which we worked together - which when it comes to finance he would ask and if Roger said, "We cannot do this", that is it. I do not think he would try to be anything (there is a line there) because he is very conscientious about his position. I think this is a very small story. Somebody a long time ago bought one machine for us and we were selling it for £15,000 and he said, "I'll pay you £10,000 in cash", and of course we laughed and we would not have done anything like this. Geoffrey never, ever - I saw him stretching everything, doing everything which is really like any businessman will try to do, but when it comes to something like this, when it comes to tax, accounting, anything like this, I think he is very conscientious. He is not a stupid person. I think he will know that something would come out. If it worked like this, how can he consider the whole thing and put this money that does not come direct to TransTec, and the £150,000 go and declare it and put everything on it. Why? It is very illogical to think that one person would say, "Alright, this £200,000 we'll deal with it differently", and not the same thing. He could have done exactly the same things and, yes, he would not have paid tax on it. It comes to TransTec; it is, again, his money and he could have dealt with it straightforwardly. I cannot see why should he have the round about ---- I do not remember the money comes to our account in clean ---- Of course you will ask about the other £200,000 which is coming there at this time; it is not just one £200,000.

MS FILKIN: (Inaudible).

DR AHMED: In this case, looking at it backwards eleven years afterwards, it is very difficult to see why this was the case.

MS FILKIN: Thank you for telling me that. Now that you now know a cheque which nobody had thought went out of Hollis did in fact go out, and that there was an invoice raised by Mr Robinson and that a sum of money which, by coincidence if you like, happened to be the same sum of money that got paid off the loan, what is your explanation for that series of events now you know all those other pieces of information?

DR AHMED: I wish I had known. It needs somebody to find out. I think the key point is a cheque was raised, a cheque was paid out of the account and who got this money we do not know. Something else, there is some money paid in TransTec's account which is similar to £200,000. I think if you look there was something on 10th December or whatever. I think the whole problem which makes things difficult to analyse, there is no record of the company; not because of the time only but because the company does not exist. When the DTI were talking to me in 1998/99 about this affair. So it is very difficult to trace anything there. I think it is a big mystery. If somebody has taken this cheque you can write in your records it is in Mr Robinson's name and it can be in any other name because when you look at the bank account it does not state whom it was paid to? What is to stop Mr Maxwell taking the cheque in any one of his companies and he would put it in his records that this went to Geoffrey Robinson and it is paid to somebody else. It is possible, but who can tell?

MS FILKIN: Thank you for telling me all of that. That has been very helpful indeed. You will understand why I now have to ask you this question, I hope. Would you be willing, if necessary, to repeat on oath what you have told me to the Standards and Privileges Committee?

DR AHMED: I have no problem with that.

MS FILKIN: Thank you. What we will now do, as I said when we started, is we will make a transcript of this. We will send it to you to correct and to add any other explanations. I am trying to get the whole picture, and that is all I am trying to do - to get the whole picture. If I could ask you to keep this conversation absolutely confidential, not to discuss it with anyone else until the report is published and then of course you may, but not in the meantime. Thank you very much indeed for coming and for being so open with me.

DR AHMED: Thank you.

112  This sentence added later by Dr Ahmed. Back

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