Tesco finance director fraud case dropped

Former Tesco executive Carl Rogberg and his wife Amanda Rogberg are seen at Southwark Crown Court in London, Britain Jan 23, 2019. (Reuters pic)

LONDON: Tesco’s former UK finance director was cleared Wednesday over a fraud and false accounting scandal at Britain’s biggest retailer after the case against him was dropped.

The acquittal of Carl Rogberg means neither the world’s third-largest supermarket group nor any of its executives have been successfully prosecuted over one of the 2014 affair, one of the biggest British corporate scandals in recent history.

Rogberg, 52, had been accused of knowing that income was being wrongly included in records to meet targets and make the world’s third-largest supermarket group look in a better financial state than it really was.

But the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced it would not offer any evidence against him on one count of fraud and another of false accounting.

“It is a huge relief that this day has finally come,” Rogberg said outside Southwark Crown Court in London.

“The trial has had enormous consequences on my health and exemplary career.

“This decision is so much more than simply an acquittal.

“In short, there was never any evidence of my wrongdoing and I should never have been charged.”

Former Tesco managing director Chris Bush, 53, and John Scouler, 50, its former UK food commercial director, were cleared of the two same charges last month after a judge dismissed the case against them as being too “weak” to pursue.

The prosecution told Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday that given those acquittals, the SFO “concluded that it would not be fair to try Mr Rogberg on his own”.

Tesco announced in September 2014 that it was likely to have overstated profits by about £250 million (US$325 million, 285 million euros).

The firm’s shares plunged by nearly 12%, wiping £2 billion off the share price.

Tesco was hit with £235 million (US$324 million, 263 million euros) in fines and costs, including compensation for investors.