Business – B&C man says DTI ‘ruined my life’

Rusty Ashman, the former finance director of British & Commonwealth, said this week he was outraged at his treatment by the Department of Trade and Industry, after he was cleared by the High Court of culpability in the collapse of the financial services company.

Chartered accountant Ashman said the eight-year investigation by the DTI, which concluded with a 36-day disqualification hearing, had ‘taken away the best years of my business life’. After his court victory, Ashman said the investigation by the DTI was unfair and the resulting prosecution was reckless.

B&C crashed with debts of #1.5bn in 1990 after its disastrous purchase of leasing company Atlantic Computers in 1988. It was discovered that Atlantic’s leases carried huge liabilities, resulting in the collapse of the parent company. Ashman said B&C directors were the victims of a ‘scam’ perpetrated by Atlantic Computers and aided by its advisers during the sale.

He said the court victory would strengthen the hand of B&C liquidator Ernst & Young in suing B&C’s adviser BZW, Atlantic’s adviser NM Rothschild and Atlantic’s auditor Spicer & Oppenheim, now part of Deloitte & Touche.

A spokesman for former B&C chairman John Gunn, who was also cleared by the court of any wrongdoing, said he wanted ‘indemnity against costs and damages for malicious prosecution’.

Ashman said he had not considered what damages might be appropriate, but added he expected to hear in the next few weeks whether he would face a disciplinary hearing at the English ICA, which had suspended its own investigation pending the outcome of the court hearing.

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