Thursday 23 February 2017

Former Tesco executives charged in 2014 fraud probe

Suzi Ring and  Sam Chambers

Tesco said that it was continuing to cooperate with prosecutors.
Tesco said that it was continuing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Three former Tesco Plc executives have been charged with fraud and false accounting by the UK Serious Fraud Office, after a multi-million dollar shortfall discovered two years ago led to a criminal investigation of the grocery giant's finances.

Former UK chief Chris Bush, Carl Rogberg, the former British finance director, and John Scouler, another one-time executive, were all charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting by the UK Serious Fraud Office yesterday. The alleged activity occurred between February and September 2014.

The SFO started investigating Tesco in 2014 after the grocer said it had overstated profits by an amount which has since spiralled to as much as £326m (€385m). Nine senior managers were put on leave, most of whom have since left.

The UK prosecutor was one of a number of authorities to open an investigation, including the Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Reporting Council. The FCA closed its probe in light of the SFO case, while the FRC is still investigating the retailer's auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

A lawyer for Mr Bush said his client was "extremely disappointed by this decision".

"He is not guilty and from the outset has cooperated with both Tesco and the SFO," Ross Dixon, a lawyer at Hickman & Rose, said in a statement.

Mr Rogberg declined to comment, while Mr Scouler and his lawyer didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The trio are scheduled to appear in a London court September 22.

Tesco, which has been considered a probable candidate for a settlement agreement with the SFO, said that it was continuing to cooperate with prosecutors.

"The last two years have seen an extensive programme of change at Tesco, but given this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to provide any further comment at this time," the company said in a statement.

The SFO said the investigation into the company remains ongoing. A number of executives have been interviewed by the SFO in the course of the probe, including former Tesco chief executive officer Philip Clarke and ex-commercial director Kevin Grace. The FRC, the accounting regulator, last month closed an investigation into Tesco's former chief financial officer, Laurie McIlwee.

Chris Bush (50) spent more than 30 years at Tesco, while the 48-year-old John Scouler joined in 2002 and rose to become UK commercial director, according to his LinkedIn profile. Carl Rogberg (49) started in 2007 and became the company's UK finance director in 2013. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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