By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) - One of Britain's most high-profile hedge fund managers and political donors "lunged" at a 26-year-old female bank employee in 1998 and indecently assaulted her, a prosecutor told a London court on Wednesday.
Crispin Odey, 62, a muti-millionaire backer of Brexit who donated to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's leadership campaign, denies a single charge of indecent assault.
Prosecutor Kerry Broome said the woman, a successful professional now based in the United States, met Odey when accompanying a senior colleague to a meeting at his Odey Asset Management firm.
Broome said Odey, an important client of her employer, promised to help her understand the business better, inviting her to return after work. But when they left to go for a drink at a nearby pub, it was crowded and she agreed to take a taxi with then 39-year-old Odey to his home in Chelsea, west London.
Once there, he suggested a takeaway, changed into a robe and groped her, putting a hand on her breast and up her skirt, she alleged.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was "shocked and scared", wrestled herself free and left, Hendon Magistrates' Court was told on the first day of the trial.
Odey, who watched proceedings from the glass-surrounded dock, will lay out his defence later.
When Odey was interviewed about the alleged incident in 2019, the prosecutor said Odey accepted the woman was at his house and said she asked him: "Where is this going to end?"
Odey responded, "...in bed hopefully," Broome said. But Odey said the woman was appalled, that he realised he had misread the situation and that she then left.
Cross-examining the former banker over a video-link, Odey's lawyer, Crispin Aylett, suggested Odey did not invite her on the day of her first meeting, but rang her the following day and asked her to come to his house.
"I absolutely definitely did not go straight to his house in Chelsea," she said. "I remember going to his office, walking to the pub and then getting into the taxi ... I could accept he called me the next day, but I absolutely do not accept that I went straight to his house," she said.
But she said she could not remember some details, including exactly when the alleged incident took place, whether she had taken her papers with her when she left, at what time she left or how long she spent outside his house afterwards.
She reported the alleged incident to the police in 2017. Broome said victims do not always report such matters immediately.
Odey stepped down from the helm of Odey Asset Management to focus on managing his own funds last year.
Along with his wife, Nichola Pease, his estimated fortune stands at 825 million pounds ($1.14 billion), according to the Rich List 2020 compiled by The Times newspaper.
The trial continues on Thursday, after which it will be held over until March 11 for a third day.
($1 = 0.7235 pounds)
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; editing by John O'Donnell, Barbara Lewis and Nick Macfie)