The plea hearing, which had originally been scheduled for October, took place at Southwark Crown Court on 1 December. Presiding Judge Joanna Korner agreed to a date of 29 November 2018 to try the defendants. The is trial expected to last between two and three weeks.
Judge Korner heard pleas from John and Stephen Knight, Paul Murphy and Philip Sach – all former directors at the group. A fifth defendant and former director, Brian Thomas, appeared at the court but did not submit pleas to the charges as he had newly taken on separate legal counsel from the rest of the group.
She permitted extra time for Thomas’ counsel to familiarise themselves with the case material before another plea hearing, set for 18 December this year.
“There is a substantial volume of material. I am quite sympathetic to someone taking it on anew,” she said at the hearing.
In the indictment, the five defendants, who stood alongside each other in the dock, are variously charged with four different offences – three of which relate to Cheating the Public Revenue.
72-year-old John Knight, 65-year-old Stephen Knight and 67-year-old Brian Thomas are charged with failing to declare income received by Anton from sales of waste paper and aluminium from 1 April 2004 to 30 November 2012. Both Knights pleaded guilty to the first charge.
In the second count, the Knights, Thomas, and Paul Murphy, 55, were charged with concealing the true balances of directors’ loan accounts. Both Knight brothers and Murphy pleaded not guilty.
The third count saw the same four defendants charged with failing to declare payments made for the remuneration of Anton directors and employees. The Knights both pleaded guilty but Murphy pleaded not guilty.
The defendants will be tried on the charges to which they pleaded not guilty in next November’s trial.
Philip Sach, 51, pleaded guilty to the fourth count on the indictment, in which he is accused of fraudulently evading income tax due on money paid as remuneration for his employment at Anton.
No mention of the amount of money involved appeared on the charge sheet.
The defendants who submitted guilty pleas last week will receive their sentences when the trial concludes on the remaining charges next year. Stephen Knight asked for leniency in his sentencing due to “health issues”, which would be exacerbated by his going to prison.
On 1 October 2014, all five of the accused resigned as directors of Anton Group, when the company was sold to the Anton Employee Ownership Trust for £14.3m. The £36.5m-turnover company fell into administration in March this year and ceased trading a month later with a creditors' shortfall of almost £13.4m. At the time of its collapse it employed 315 staff.
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