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Tesco boss sacked for taking €1,000 'gift' from contractor

A SENIOR Tesco manager was fired from his job after he received cheques totalling €1,000 as gifts from a contractor.

Niall Browne, an engineer and maintenance manager with Tesco Ireland, claims he was unfairly dismissed from his €70,000-a-year job with the supermarket giant.

The gifts came to light after an anonymous letter was sent to Tesco Ireland chief executive Tony Keohane, in which it was claimed that a contractor was giving "substantial gifts" to staff.

An internal investigation was launched and it discovered that three senior managers had received monetary gifts.

Two of them, including Mr Browne, lost their jobs as a result, while the third was kept on as he had not cashed the cheques he was given.

A fourth employee was also identified in the probe, however, the supermarket said this person had already left the company by the time the whistle-blowing letter was received.

An Employment Appeals Tribunal in Dublin heard yesterday that Mr Browne worked in the property services department which oversees maintenance of Tesco stores throughout the country and has the power to award contracts.

Mr Browne claims the two bank drafts he received from the named contractor -- the first for €500 in December 2008, the second also for €500 in December 2009 -- were lodged into his bank account by his wife without his knowledge.

In an opening statement before an Employment Appeals Tribunal held in Dublin yesterday, it was claimed on behalf of Mr Browne that he was obliged to bring home any gifts he received at Christmas time, such as cards or bottles of whiskey or wine, and that the envelopes containing the drafts got "mixed up with household post".

Barrister for Mr Browne, Grainne Gilmore, told the tribunal that the disciplinary investigation carried out by Tesco was "essentially a sham".

"It would appear that Tesco were making an example out of Niall Browne at the time and this was an unfair position to take," she added.

Mairead McKenna, barrister for Tesco, said Mr Browne was in a relatively senior position with the company when he was dismissed in October 2010 for serious misconduct.

She said the company's "gift and conflict of interest policy" was very clear. Ms McKenna said that during the investigation process, Mr Browne said he was aware of the policy.

She said one of the bank drafts was lodged to Mr Browne's family bank account and the other was lodged to his personal account.

She said there had been a "serious breach of trust" and Mr Browne's dismissal was "fair, proportionate and reasonable".

The case was adjourned to December 3.

Irish Independent