Express Newspapers, the national newspaper group put up for auction by Lord Hollis’s fast-diminishing media empire, United News & Media, is expected to receive a formal £100 million bid from controversial billionaire brothers, Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja, within days.

The bidding duo, along with a third Hinduja sibling, face possible charges of corruption and bribery centred around a massive 1986 arms deal between Bofors of Sweden and the Indian government. Although the brothers rebut the accusations, an Indian judge will shortly decide whether to seek their extradition to stand trial.

The Hinduja family maintains a unique global network of contacts with the great and the good, especially at political and top commercial level. In Britain, they are best known to the general public for their high profile multi-million sponsorship of the Millennium Dome’s Faith zone.

The expected Hinduja bid for Express Newspapers (comprising the Daily Express, Sunday Express and the Daily Star) is thought to be the highest to date. Other billionaire bidders include the reclusive Barclay twins [WAMN: 6-10-00] plus a mere millionaire, the former Mirror Group chief executive David Montgomery, backed by investment capital group 3i.

If successful in their bid, said Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja yesterday, they will form board of trustees to ensure the editorial independence of the titles, transforming the Daily Express into a politically independent campaigning newspaper.

News source: The Times (London)