Business – Astra case reopened

By Lawrie Holmes and Phillip Inman The Joint Disciplinary Scheme has reopened its investigation into chartered accountant Gerald James, the former chairman of Astra Holdings, the holding company in the ?arms-to-Iraq? scandal, after the collapse of the government?s disqualification proceedings.

But James, who will be investigated along with the company?s former finance director, Scots ICA member James Miller, immediately called on trade secretary Margaret Beckett to intervene, saying it was unfair he should face a second investigation.

The DTI dropped its inquiry into their role running the munitions group in May.

A DTI report severely criticised James and Miller after the company went into administrative receivership in 1992.

An original JDS investigation, dating back to 1995, was put on hold while the DTI conducted disqualification proce-edings. JDS boss Chris Dickson said the JDS would cover ?much the same ground as the DTI? and it ?was a perfectly straightforward procedure?.

But James said Beckett?s decision to drop the case because ?the balance of public interest now favours discontinuance? is in direct conflict with the JDS? statement that it is to pursue its own investigation in the public interest.

James believed unseen forces were at work. He said: ?Someone is trying to retaliate by using the JDS against me.?

This week, James wrote to Beckett citing 22 reasons why the DTI and JDS had mishandled his case. DTI private secretary Anthony Phillipson said: ?The president is aware of it and she will reply to it as soon as practicable.?

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