Court ac­quits 2 Tesco di­rec­tors in fraud trial

Business Daily (Kenya) - - CORPORATE NEWS - JOHN SCOULER

Two for­mer Tesco di­rec­tors have been ac­quit­ted of charges of fraud and false ac­count­ing after the judge dis­missed their case due to lack of ev­i­dence.

Chris Bush, for­mer UK man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, and John Scouler, for­mer UK food com­mer­cial di­rec­tor, were ac­cused of ma­nip­u­lat­ing fig­ures that re­sulted in Tesco's prof­its be­ing over­stated.

In au­tumn 2014, Tesco said that prof­its had been over­stated by about £250m.

Both Mr Bush and Mr Scouler had de­nied the charges. After their ac­quit­tal, Mr Bush said: "While I am de­lighted that my in­no­cence has fi­nally been es­tab­lished, it is trou­bling that Mr Scouler and I were ever charged. "I am now look­ing for­ward to get­ting home and spend­ing Christ­mas with my fam­ily."

It was al­leged the pair were aware that in­come was be­ing wrongly in­cluded in the com­pany's fi­nan­cial records to meet tar­gets and make Tesco look fi­nan­cially health­ier than it was.

Mr Scouler, 50, from High Wy­combe and Mr Bush, 52, of St Al­bans each de­nied one count of fraud and an­other of false ac­count­ing. At the time they had ben­e­fits pack­ages with Tesco of more than £1m each. Tesco found that its prof­its had been over­stated due to early recog­ni­tion of pay­ments from sup­pli­ers who sold their goods in its stores, as well as de­lays in charg­ing costs.

The de­fen­dants had been on trial for eight weeks at South­wark Crown Court.

The ac­quit­tal came after trial judge Sir John Royce dis­missed the case brought by the Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice (SFO), halt­ing the trial after the pros­e­cu­tion pre­sented its case. "I con­cluded in cer­tain cru­cial ar­eas the pros­e­cu­tion case was so

I am now look­ing for­ward to get­ting home and spend­ing Christ­mas with my fam­ily,”

| FOR­MER TESCO UK FOOD COM­MER­CIAL DI­REC­TOR weak it should not be left for a jury's con­sid­er­a­tion," Judge Royce said. The SFO tried to have the de­ci­sion over­turned at Court of Ap­peal on Wed­nes­day, but was un­suc­cess­ful and the men were cleared by Court of Ap­peal judges.

Richard Sally­banks, part­ner at BCL Solic­i­tors rep­re­sent­ing John Scouler, said: "We are de­lighted that Mr Scouler leaves court to­day know­ing that the judge, hav­ing heard the en­tirety of the pros­e­cu­tion ev­i­dence, reached the firm con­clu­sion that he had no case to an­swer.

"That de­ci­sion was ob­vi­ously cor­rect yet the SFO chose to pur­sue an ap­peal which was re­jected yes­ter­day."

Ross Dixon, part­ner at Hick­man and Rose, and so­lic­i­tor for Mr Bush, said: "The trial judge heard from 30 wit­nesses and con­sid­ered thou­sands of pages of writ­ten ev­i­dence; he reached the firm con­clu­sion that there was no case for the de­fen­dants to an­swer.

"The Court of Ap­peal has now af­firmed that de­ci­sion and re­fused the SFO per­mis­sion to ap­peal. Quite how the SFO man­aged to so fun­da­men­tally mis­un­der­stand the ef­fect of its own ev­i­dence de­mands an an­swer."

--AFP

Atesco su­per­mar­ket in Birken­head, north-west Eng­land.

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