Nurse Arrested In Connection With Safra Death

MONTE CARLO - A nurse who was recently hired to care for Edmond J. Safra was arrested late Sunday in connection with the billionaire banker's death.Prosecutor Daniel Serdet said at a news conference that Ted Maher, 41, told investigators he set the fatal blaze but had not intended to kill Mr. Safra. He also said he acted alone. Mr. Maher will be charged with arson leading to two deaths, prosecutors said. If convicted, Mr. Maher could receive up to life in prison.

Mr. Maher, the father of three children, had worked for Mr. Safra for five months but had been in Monaco just six weeks. He previously lived in Maine and New York.

French newspapers reported Monday that Mr. Maher initially told police that he had received knife wounds in the stomach and leg from two hooded attackers. A bloodstained, three-inch switchblade was found in the apartment, but it was not known whether fingerprints had been traced.

However, Mr. Maher has admitted the knife he was stabbed with was his own, and police are now investigating whether the wounds could have been self-inflicted. Mr. Maher was arrested at Princess Grace Hospital, where he was recovering.

Apparently startled by alarms, Mr. Safra, majority shareholder and founder of Republic New York Corp., locked himself and another nurse in a bathroom of his penthouse atop a Republic bank branch. Police now say that Mr. Safra made at least two calls from a cellular telephone to his wife, Lily, who was sleeping in another part of the 10,000-square-foot apartment. Mr. Safra suffocated after the apartment was set ablaze.

Republic and HSBC Holdings PLC reaffirmed that a $9.85 billion merger agreement would close by yearend. The Federal Reserve Board approved the deal Monday. Mr. Safra was buried Monday in Geneva. Friends and family originally had planned to bury Mr. Safra in Jerusalem, as Mr. Safra had wished, but said there were logistical problems.

- Compiled from wire reports

Natwest Turns Down 2 Scottish Banks' Bids

LONDON - National Westminster Bank PLC said Monday that it recently met with the boards of Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland and rejected unsolicited acquisition bids from each as being too risky.Natwest said its senior managers met with Bank of Scotland directors Friday to discuss that company's $41 billion offer. "Nothing in the meeting changed Natwest's conviction that its stand-alone strategy offers greater value and substantially lower risk," Natwest said in the statement.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which made its own $40.3 billion offer last week, met with Natwest on Nov. 28. Natwest said it also rejected that offer as risky, but declined to comment further until Royal Bank has published an offering document.

Natwest, a $302.7 billion-asset company based in London, has launched a defense against the hostile bids of both Scottish institutions, pledging to sell four business units and slash costs.

The British government has studied both bids for anticompetitiveness and cleared Bank of Scotland to proceed last month. The government is expected to make a decision this week on whether to clear Royal Bank's bid.

Bank of Scotland has been openly hostile and publicly critical of Natwest's management, but Natwest said it detected a change of heart in the meeting last week.

Natwest's chairman and chief executive officer, Sir David Rowland, said the meeting with Bank of Scotland "demonstrated a complete reversal of attitude." But Sir David added that the reversal "raises serious questions about the judgment of the leadership of Bank of Scotland."

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