The Serious Fraud Office is to announce this week whether a full criminal investigation into the collapse of MG Rover will be held, potentially leaving more than 6,000 ex-workers in limbo yet again.
National newspaper reports claimed that the SFO could reveal as early as tomorrow whether it will undertake a full inquiry into the demise of Longbridge dating back to April 2005.
If a full investigation is ordered, the publication of the Government inquiry into MG Rover’s closure could be delayed for months, probably until after a General Election.
And a detailed SFO probe would leave the 6,000 plus former employees still waiting for payment of four figure sums from the trust fund promised by the Phoenix Four back in the spring of 2005.
Reports said the SFO, led by director Richard Alderman, has spent the last month reviewing the case after Business Secretary Lord Mandelson’s announcement in early July that he had asked the Office to investigate whether there were “grounds for prosecution”.
If the SFO decides not to go ahead with the full inquiry it will clear the path for publication of the report originally ordered by the then Department of Trade and Industry.
Sources have indicated that the report may be highly critical of the role played in Longbridge’s collapse by past and present Labour ministers, including Gordon Brown during his reign as Chancellor.
Ex-MG Rover chairman John Towers and the other members of the Phoenix Four have already issued a statement accusing Labour of delaying tactics to “disguise their own failings”.
A spokesman for the Phoenix Four said: “At no stage during the last four years has there been any suggestion of fraud or illegal activity whatsoever. Therefore, the directors can see no basis for an SFO investigation.
“The directors have at all times willingly accounted for their actions, not just in the latest inquiry but with the Financial Reporting Review Panel, and the inquiry by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the administrators.”
The Government report, launched four years ago, has already run up a bill of more than £16 million to the growing frustration of politicians, the Phoenix Four and thousands of ex-workers.
Shadow Business Secretary Kenneth Clarke has accused the Government of kicking the issue “into the long grass” amid claims from some quarters that the publication of the report is being deliberately delayed until after a General Election.
And the Phoenix Four have also accused Midland peer Lord Bhattacharyya of “frequent and persistent” attacks on MG Rover, claims which are strenuously denied.