DTI probe widens.

The accountant at the centre of a row over an $18m claim against TransTec that led to its downfall could face criminal charges after admitting he colluded with former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson over grant applications to the DTI worth over £400,000. Max Ayriss, former TransTec chief accountant, made a written statement to a Sunday newspaper because he said he was not happy about what he was asked to do with the grant applications by Robinson. Although the two parted amicably he copied the relevant papers ‘in case someone came knocking on the door and asked me to explain myself’. The allegations against Robinson derive from dealings conducted between 1986/88, when Ayriss claimed his boss urged him to apply for the maximum grant by reclassifying expenditure to boost research and development figures. At that time, TransTec’s R&D was eligible for grants and a certain amount could be reimbursed every quarter. He said he had done nothing about it for ten years, he explained: ‘I may be facing criminal charges because I completed the form although Geoffrey signed it.’ The DTI has promised to investigate the claims, and is to launch a full-scale probe. The renewed focus on scandals at the company, which is now subject to receivership – conducted by Arthur Andersens – will add further complications to the Big Five firm’s inquiries, and could call a halt to plans to sell off the business. An Andersens spokesman said: ‘We have had nothing to do with Ayriss and we do not know the details of his claims. We do not have any view as to whether it will be relevant to selling the TransTec business.’ Andersens could face its own inquiry by the English ICA into whether it should have accepted the receivership appointment, due to its previous relationship with the company.

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