US cable operator Adelphia Communications wired cash advances of $50 million (€41m; £27m) to founder John Rigas, a court heard this week.

Adelphia's former treasury supervisor James Helms, testifying before a federal court in New York, revealed that Rigas received large cash payments from the firm with the approval of his son Timothy, who worked there as finance chief. Prosecutors claim these handouts were undisclosed and illegal.

The two Rigases, plus Timothy's brother Michael and one-time Adelphia executive Michael Mulcahey, stand accused of using the public company as a "personal piggybank" before its filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2002. They face charges of fraud and conspiracy.

Helms testified that in 1999, John Rigas's requests for cash grew so large that the former treasury supervisor asked Mulcahey, his then boss, whether there was a limit. After consulting with Timothy Rigas, Mulcahey allegedly replied "that the limit was $1 million per month."

Helms worked at Adelphia under Mulcahey from December 1997 to December 2002. By agreeing to testify, he has escaped prosecution himself.

Rigas's lawyers claim the cash advances described in Helms' testimony were perfectly legal, representing interest payments on Adelphia securities held by the family.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff