Former local press owner pleads guilty to theft charges

A former newspaper entrepreneur who set up the Milton Keynes Citizen and Aberdeen Independent has pleaded guilty at a court in Kent to a string of theft charges.

The charges relate to a time when Bill Alder was chief executive of Maidstone and Mid Kent Chamber of Commerce.

Alder, 56, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of theft between November 2001 and September 2002.

Maidstone Crown Court heard that Alder stole "debts" totalling £1,765 owed by the Maidstone and Mid Kent Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Natwest Bank.

Alder, now of Spot Lane, Bearsted, near Maidstone, denied three further similar charges of theft totalling £2,063, as well as 10 offences of false accounting.

It was alleged that between December 2001 and September 2002 he either falsified monthly expenses accounting sheets by omitting the full extent of his use of the company credit card, or furnished false information in relation to the same documents.

The Chamber of Commerce ceased trading in 2003 after going into the red by nearly £50,000.

At the time, president Alan Reading and other directors said although the chamber was profitable from time to time, it was not enough to cover past debts, despite the board having done its best to overcome a financial crisis.

Alder, who set up the Milton Keynes Citizen in 1981 and the Aberdeen Independent in 1996, was made chief executive of the Maidstone Chamber in 2000.

He left in September 2002 and was arrested at Heathrow Airport while returning to the UK in August last year.

Adjourning sentence for reports until 24 July, Judge John MacDonald QC said: "These are not enormous sums, but neither are they totally insignificant, and this was a breach of trust."

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