Two former Tesco directors have been cleared of fraud and false accounting in relation to the company’s profits being overstated by £250million.
The firm’s shares plummeted by nearly 12% – wiping £2 billion off their value – when Tesco announced in September 2014 that a statement the previous month had overstated profits by about a quarter of a billion pounds.
Chris Bush, ex-UK managing director, and John Scouler, the then UK food commercial director, were accused of being 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.
But on Thursday at Southwark Crown Court, the jury was told that they were acquitted at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
The acquittal came after trial judge Sir John Royce dismissed the case brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), bringing the trial to a halt after the prosecution presented its case.
The SFO went to the Court of Appeal regarding the dismissal, but its appeal was dismissed on Wednesday and the men were cleared by Court of Appeal judges.
Mr Scouler, 50, of The Park, St Albans, and Mr Bush, 52, of Four Acres, Green End Road, Radnage, High Wycombe, were each cleared of one count of fraud and another of false accounting.
None of this could be reported until the jury was informed.
During the trial, the jury was told the case was a retrial, and that a third man, former UK finance director Carl Rogberg, is charged with identical offences but was not currently well enough to stand trial.
A decision will be made in due course about what action should be taken in relation to Rogberg following the acquittals of Mr Scouler and Mr Bush.
The trial of Mr Scouler and Mr Bush, which began on October 8, had been expected to last three months.
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 when the Court of Appeal refused even to grant leave.
"We have long argued that the SFO’s prosecution of Mr Scouler was fundamentally flawed, that he should not have been charged and that the SFO should not have proceeded with this trial. Mr Scouler has maintained since the outset of this investigation that he was not guilty of fraud and false accounting, and those close to him always knew that to be the case.
"We are simply pleased that, after four years, this has now been confirmed by the Court of Appeal upholding the judge’s decision that he should be acquitted of all charges. This is a very significant defeat for the SFO – and a notable win for BCL Solicitors and the two ex Tesco directors."
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