Former Tesco directors cleared in $318 million fraud case
UK supermarket Tesco’s former directors were acquitted on Thursday of fraud and false accounting.
Tesco’s former managing director, Christopher Bush, and former food commercial director, John Scouler, were accused of wrongdoing to support the supermarket giant’s share price and securing huge compensation packages.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had brought on the case against the grocery after the overstatement of Tesco’s profit forecasts of more than $318 million in 2014.
Judge John Royce announced at London’s Southwark Crown Court that the former officials were acquitted by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday. He said the Court of Appeal concluded that his judgment at the mid-trial showed that the defendants had no case to answer was correct and refused the SFO permission to appeal.
“I concluded in certain crucial areas the prosecution case was so weak it should not be left for a jury’s consideration,” Royce said.
Bush and Scouler were charged in September 2016 with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting. A first trial was abandoned in February, shortly before the jury was due to retire to consider its verdict. The re-trial had been running since October, said Reuters.
“While I am delighted that my innocence has finally been established, it is troubling that Mr Scouler and I were ever charged,” Bush said in a statement. “Put simply, these charges should never have been brought, and serious questions should be asked about the way in which the SFO has conducted this investigation. In my view, the SFO wholly failed to investigate this case thoroughly, independently or fairly from the outset.”
A third defendant, Carl Rogberg, 51, a former Tesco UK finance director, wasn’t included in the second trial. The SFO is currently considering whether to pursue a retrial of him.
Tesco had already suspended eight senior staff members including Bush, Scouler and Rogberg. This controversy had affected the supermarket’s shares as it tumbled and the retailer plunged into the worst crisis in its almost 100-year history.