Tesco’s bosses in court over £250m fraud

Daily Express - - NEWS - By John Chap­man

THREE former Tesco ex­ec­u­tives ap­peared in court yes­ter­day ac­cused of “cook­ing the books” in a scan­dal which wiped £2bil­lion off the su­per­mar­ket’s total share value.

Chris Bush, 51, John Scouler, 49, and Carl Rog­berg, 50, al­legedly failed to cor­rect in­ac­cu­rately recorded in­come fig­ures which were pub­lished to au­di­tors, other em­ploy­ees and the wider mar­ket.

The pros­e­cu­tor said the case amounted to “false ac­count­ing” by the trio, who re­ceived bonuses of more than £5mil­lion. Their ac­tions sent “shock­waves” through the stock mar­ket.

The su­per­mar­ket’s former fi­nance chief, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and food com­mer­cial head, who are charged with fraud by abuse of po­si­tion and false ac­count­ing be­tween Fe­bru­ary and Septem­ber 2014, were in­ves­ti­gated after Tesco was found to have in­flated its prof­its.

The su­per­mar­ket made a public an­nounce­ment to the stock mar­ket on Septem­ber 22, 2014, which stated that it had pre­vi­ously over-es­ti­mated its prof­its by £250mil­lion, South­wark Crown Court in London heard.

Sasha Wass QC told the jury: “Each of the de­fen­dants was aware that this would lead to the com­pany look­ing fi­nan­cially health­ier than it actually was and it would re­sult in Tesco’s trad­ing prof­its be­ing over­stated. This, say the pros­e­cu­tion, was clearly dis­hon­est.”

Bush, of High Wy­combe, Buck­ing­hamshire, Scouler, of St Al­bans, Hert­ford­shire, and Rog­berg, of Chis­el­hamp­ton, Ox­ford­shire, all deny the charges. Ms Wass said: “These de­fen­dants en­cour­aged the ma­nip­u­la­tion of prof­its and in­deed pres­surised oth­ers work­ing un­der their con­trol to mis­con­duct them­selves in such a way that the stock mar­ket was ul­ti­mately mis­led.”

Ms Wass said those who ob­jected to the prac­tice within the or­gan­i­sa­tion were bul­lied and forced to con­tinue. The court heard that Rog­berg, who was “di­rectly re­spon­si­ble” for au­tho­ris­ing the fal­si­fied fig­ures, re­ceived a re­mu­ner­a­tion pack­age of more than £1mil­lion in 2014.

Bush, who was in charge of the per­for­mance and “in­tegrity” of Tesco at the time, re­ceived nearly £3mil­lion that year, while Scouler, who al­legedly di­rected those be­neath him to fal­sify in­come fig­ures, re­ceived around £1.5mil­lion.

Ms Wass said Tesco was op­er­at­ing in “chal­leng­ing trad­ing con­di­tions” and “fail­ure was not looked on kindly”.

She added: “Each de­fen­dant would have had a very per­sonal interest in keeping the share value of the com­pany high, be­cause a lot of their re­mu­ner­a­tion pack­age in­cluded shares.”

Ms Wass said fig­ures were “window-dressed” to make it look as if tar­gets were be­ing met. Some em­ploy­ees felt so com­pro­mised that they re­signed rather than re­main in­volved.

The trial con­tin­ues.

Former Tesco ex­ec­u­tives, from left, Chris Bush, John Scouler and Carl Rog­berg are charged with false ac­count­ing

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