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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Cumbrian business tycoon cleared of corruption

Business tycoon Bill Lowther has been cleared of bribing a Vietnamese bank governor with a university place for his son in exchange for £90m of printing contracts.

Bill Lowther photo
Bill Lowther

Related: Cumbrian tycoon ‘not in the loop’ on kickbacks, court told

Mr Lowther, 73, former boss of Innovia which has a base in Wigton, was accused of arranging a kickback for Le Duc Thuy as a reward for saving his banknote printing firm from financial ruin.

Lowther, of St Aidan’s Road, Carlisle, personally chauffeured the Vietnamese official’s son to an interview for a place at Durham University, but told jurors he was just being ‘helpful’.

After less than a day of deliberation, the jury cleared Lowther unanimously of conspiracy to corrupt. He smiled when the verdict was delivered at Southwark Crown Court in London and shook the hand of the dock officer on his way out. Lowther had been on trial for the last two weeks accused of forking out £21,000 for Le Duc Minh’s tuition fees and accommodation in the UK to ‘curry favour’ with the powerful finance official.

The court heard 29 Vietnamese contracts worth a total of 191m Australian Dollars (£90m) had been awarded to banknote printing firm Securency between 2002 and 2008.

Harvard-educated Lowther, who has racked up a string of honours during a career spanning four decades, including an OBE, CBE and honorary knighthood from the King of Belgium, said he would have stopped the kickbacks if he had known about them.

He told the court he had helped Mr Minh after he was contacted by Securency managing director Myles Curtis in January 2003.

Lowther, reprsented by the Prime Minister’s brother Alexander Cameron QC, said: “I believe he said that the governor said he would very much like his son to go to the UK as part of his education and he was of the view that I was involved with universities and was it possible for me to help in respect of a just getting him and name he could ring or contact.

“I took the view that I would try to be helpful.”

Lowther, of St Aidan’s Road, Carlisle, denied a single count of conspiracy to corrupt between January 1 and December 31, 2003.

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