Aitken 'has £3million in the bank'

by Mail on Sunday reporter

Jonathan Aitken is set to escape from his bankruptcy and disgrace in a secret deal which will leave him with more than £3 million in the bank.

He has finally persuaded an array of creditors to give up their attempts to force him to pay all the money he owes.

They are expected this week to accept the former Tory Cabinet Minister's proposals to hand over less than half of the money owed following his disastrous libel case and imprisonment for perjury.

Aitken presented the bankruptcy trustees with a proposal last week to end his legal battles which began with a secret trip to the luxurious Ritz hotel in Paris in 1993 and ended up, via jail, in a basement flat in South London.

His proposals, he claims, will 'allow me to make a complete break' with the past. There was a creditors' meeting this weekend and one said yesterday: 'We're agreeing to his latest deal very reluctantly. But it's also time for us to move on.'

Under the deal, Aitken and his four children, son William and daughters Victoria, Alexandra and Petrina, will get to keep £600,000 from the proceeds of the sale of his Westminster townhouse in Lord North Street. He will also keep his two pensions, worth more than £500,000. These are his Parliamentary pension, worth £262,000, from when he was an MP, and a £300,000 pension from Aitken Hume, the merchant bank he helped found.

He will also keep the £2.8 million he received from Prince Mohammed bin Fahd of Saudi Arabia that he has held in a Liechtenstein bank account throughout his bankruptcy. His creditors will stop trying to get access to this.

Aitken's documents reveal that, during his bankruptcy, he has been lent a luxurious car by motor-racing boss, Frank Williams. They also show that the book he wrote about his experiences, Pride And Perjury, was a commercial flop and there are no plans to reprint or bring it out as a paperback.

His creditors, who include the Guardian newspaper, Granada Television and the Inland Revenue, will get less than half the £3 million owed to them. The taxman has been pursuing Aitken over unpaid tax from the £500,000 sale of his second home in Kent. Aitken had long argued that the house was owned by a Panamanian company set up by the Serbian grandmother of his ex-wife Lolicia. He appears to have abandoned this claim.

The creditors were keen to keep up the fight, but the bankruptcy trustees have told them that the cost of the legal struggle was mounting remorselessly. 'He is laughing all the way to the bank, he need never work again,' said one furious creditor yesterday. 'It is a dis-grace, but Aitken has kept putting up obstacles and fighting legal battles every inch and every penny of the way. It is costing us too much to try to recover what he owes.'

More than £500,000 has been spent in legal fees since Aitken declared himself bankrupt in May 1999. The bankruptcy trustees have had difficulty getting details from him over his own legal fees.

The Aitken proposals will go before the High Court before the end of the month after formal agreement by the creditors. If he is discharged from bankruptcy, he will once again be able to possess a cheque book and become a company director.

Aitken has been writing articles about Saudi Arabia, renewing his Middle East contacts and been discussing business schemes with another high-profile former bankrupt, Kevin Maxwell.