Bribes used to keep potato con­tracts

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By STEPHEN BRIGGS stephen.briggs@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk @Et­stephenb

A DI­REC­TOR of a potato firm is fac­ing a lengthy jail term af­ter pay­ing bribes to a su­per­mar­ket buyer.

An­drew Be­hagg (60), a di­rec­tor of potato sup­ply­ing gi­ant Green­vale, au­tho­rised pay­ments of thou­sands of pounds in brown en­velopes in re­turn for lu­cra­tive con­tracts worth mil­lions.

A probe into the pay­ments found that Sains­bury’s was over­charged by a to­tal of £3.8 mil­lion by the potato sup­plier.

The ex­tra money went into an ac­count, some of which was chan­nelled to Sains­bury’s buyer John May­lam.

May­lam would in­cur “ex­penses” of £20,000 a month, spend­ing the cash on ex­pen­sive restau­rants and ex­clu­sive London ho­tels in­clud­ing Clar­idge’s and The Dorch­ester.

Yes­ter­day Be­hagg, from Chat­teris, was found guilty of cor­rup­tion at Croy­don Crown Court.

May­lam and Green­vale’s ac­count man­ager David Bax­ter have also both ad­mit­ted cor­rup­tion.

Judge Ni­cholas Ain­ley said: “For any case of this mag­ni­tude a sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment is al­most in­evitably passed and a sig­nif­i­cant one at that.”

The crime was un­cov­ered when a Green­vale em­ployee grew sus­pi­cious when he was asked to with­draw £5,000 bun­dles in £50 notes from a bank in Chat­teris.

Ju­rors heard Si­mon Forster, a fi­nan­cial ac­coun­tant, in­ves­ti­gated and found pay­ments were be­ing en­tered into Green­vale’s fi­nan­cial sys­tem as “en­ter­tain­ing” ex­penses and then writ­ten off as “raw ma­te­ri­als” or stor­age costs for pota­toes at fic­ti­tious firms in Spain and the UK.

Mr Forster said that when he raised the pay­ments with Be­hagg - one of the sig­na­to­ries of the ac­count used to with­draw the cash - he was told they were “re­bates” and part of a “scheme”.

He said he was later asked to cre­ate a spe­cific ac­count to record other elec­tronic pay­ments so they went through a “dif­fer­ent track” of the sys­tem.

Fol­low­ing yes­ter­day’s ver­dict, Pro­duce In­vest­ments, the own­ers of Green­vale, said: “We in­sti­gated this in­ves­ti­ga­tion and have since then in­tro­duced new pro­ce­dures to make sure that such abuse can never hap­pen again.

“Our re­la­tion­ship with Sains­bury’s is now on a foot­ing as be­fore and we con­tinue to be one of the largest sup­pli­ers of pota­toes to shop­pers all over the coun­try.”

A Sains­bury’s spokesman added: “This was an un­ac­cept­able and cal­cu­lated crime against Sains­bury’s of a mag­ni­tude never ex­pe­ri­enced in our his­tory.”

May­lam, (44), of Bearstead, Maid­stone, Kent, who earned mil­lions through the scheme, and Bax­ter, (50), of Hin­stock, Mar­ket Dray­ton, Shrop­shire, were ar­rested af­ter the com­pany’s ex­ter­nal au­di­tor was alerted. All three are ex­pected to be sen­tenced on June 22.

DOG walk­ers in Ferry Mead­ows stop to ad­mire the scenery and take ad­van­tage of a sunny af­ter­noon.

Picture: ROW­LAND HOB­SON

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