FORMER investment banker Ewan Launder yesterday pleaded not guilty to 13 corruption charges involving $43.95 million. The 63-year-old, who was extradited from Britain last April after a 15-year absence from Hong Kong, entered the pleas in the Court of First Instance. The trial, scheduled to go before a jury on March 1, was deferred to March 29 so that prosecutors could search for evidence in Canada and the United States from witnesses yet to be located. 'I have decided to grant the prosecution application,' Deputy Judge Gareth Lugar-Mawson said after hearing argument from both sides. Prosecutor Bernard Ryan admitted to difficulties in contacting potential witnesses Thomas Robert Bate and Thomas Yau Kam-wan. However, prosecutors had arranged with authorities in Calgary and Los Angeles, where the men are believed to be, for evidence-taking to start on March 15 and March 22 respectively. Each session was expected to last four or five days, Mr Ryan said. Deputy Judge Lugar-Mawson would be invited to act as a co-examiner of the overseas sessions, the court heard. Mr Ryan also indicated that the prosecution would object to Launder going with his defence team to the two cities, should the defendant apply to do so. 'That application has not been made,' Deputy Judge Lugar-Mawson pointed out. Barrister Alexander King, for Launder, informed the court that the defence would not oppose the judge being appointed a co-examiner. Launder, a former chief executive of Wardley Limited, denied 13 counts of accepting an advantage. He was accused of taking $31.95 million from George Tan Soon-gin, the former chief of the collapsed Carrian empire, and $12 million from Chung Ching-man and his wife Pak Choi-wah in return for favours. The alleged offences took place between October 1980 and June 1982. The parties are to return before Deputy Judge Lugar-Mawson on March 1 for extension of Launder's bail to the new trial date. The accused is on bail for $100,000 surety and $5 million cash surety. He must also report daily to the Happy Valley police station.