Bribe secured £90m contract, court told

A TYCOON paid for a bank governor’s son to attend Durham University in exchange for a £90m printing contract, a court heard yesterday.

Bill Lowther, 73, footed the bill for the son of Le Duc Thuy, the boss of the State Bank of Vietnam, to study for an MBA, it is alleged.

He paid £18,000 in tuition fees and thousands more for student accommodation, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The packaging magnate even drove Le Duc Minh to an interview with the course director after setting up the meeting, it was said.

His efforts were bribes to ensure the Vietnamese official awarded his banknote printing firm Securency a lucrative contract, said Richard Jory, prosecuting.

He said: “In order to curry favour, the defendant and others based in the UK, Australia, and Vietnam devised a plan to secure and finance a place on an MBA course at Durham Business School.

“For the governor himself, having a place for his son on this prestigious course at Durham, with fees and accommodation paid, was of significant value.”

He said that between 2002 and 2008, Securency was awarded 29 contracts in Vietnam worth a total of £90m.

Lowther was the driving force behind the creation of Securency as a joint venture with the Australian Reserve Bank in 1996.

He was also a director of UCB, now Innovia, which had a 50 per cent stake in Securency, at the time of the alleged 2003 corruption.

However, Mr Jory said Securency was in financial difficulties and desperately needed the Vietnam banknote printing contract.

The court was told that when Mr Minh arrived in the UK, Lowther drove him to the interview and provided him with accommodation.

Mr Jory said: “The interview was with a long-standing associate of this defendant, Dr Alan Jessop, the full-time director of the MBA course at Durham University.”

Mr Lowther is said to have paid £18,000 for fees and £3,400 for accommodation in 2003.

Mr Jory said Mr Lowther’s guilt was shown by the efforts he made to hide the payments to the university.

Harvard-educated Mr Lowther has several honours from a career spanning four decades, including an OBE, CBE and honorary knighthood from the King of Belgium.

Mr Lowther, of St Aidan’s Road, Carlisle, denies a single count of conspiracy to corrupt.

The trial continues.

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