Thought leadership

Three former Tesco executives have been charged with fraud by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as part of an investigation into an accounting scandal at the supermarket.

Carl Rogberg, Chris Bush and John Scouler – the supermarket’s former finance chief, managing director and food commercial head respectively – will be requisitioned to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on September 22.

The trio, who worked under former chief executive Philip Clarke, have been under investigation for their alleged role in an accounting scandal in which Tesco was found to have inflated its profits by £263 million in 2014, later revised up to £326 million.

They face lengthy jail sentences if found guilty.The SFO said it had charged the men with one count of Fraud by Abuse of Position, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, and one count of False Accounting, which carries seven years.

The SFO statement did not mention Mr Clarke, but it has been reported that he has also been questioned by the fraud squad as part of its probe.

Mr Clarke, who left the retailer in September 2014, oversaw a string of profit warnings and a slump in market share as Tesco came under pressure from discount rivals Aldi and Lidl.

The SFO said that the investigation into Tesco “remains ongoing”.

Tesco said in a statement: “We note the decision of the SFO to bring a prosecution against former colleagues in relation to historic issues and acknowledge the investigation into the company is ongoing.

“Tesco continues to co-operate with the SFO’s investigation. The last two years have seen an extensive programme of change at Tesco, but given this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to provide any further comment at this time.”

Mr Bush’s solicitor said that he plans to fight the allegations. Ross Dixon, partner at Hickman and Rose solicitors, said: “He (Mr Bush) is extremely disappointed by this decision. He is not guilty and from the outset has fully co-operated with both Tesco and the SFO in their investigations. He will vigorously contest these allegations and is confident he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Last week, Tesco’s former chief financial officer Laurie Mcilwee was cleared by the accountancy watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), over his role in the scandal.

Mr Mcilwee resigned as chief financial officer of Britain’s biggest supermarket in April 2014, and the FRC said it had ended the investigation because there was ”no realistic prospect” that a tribunal would make an adverse finding in relation to his conduct.

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