In Brief

Tesco’s £250m fraud trial collapses

One of three executives accused of ‘cooking the books’ suffers heart attack

The trial of three former Tesco executives accused of fraud has collapsed after one of the defendants suffered a heart attack.

Former Tesco UK boss Chris Bush, ex-commercial food director John Scouler and former finance head Carl Rogberg were charged with fraud by false accounting and abuse of position, over a £250m accounting scandal.

In 2014, Tesco claimed its profits for the first half of the financial year were expected to be “in the region of £1.1bn”. This figure was later founded to have been overstated.

Further investigations revealed irregularities in Tesco’s UK accounts for 2013-14: the supermarket had inflated its profits by £284m.

During the trial, which began in September after months of delay, the three men were accused of “cooking the books” by bringing forward income not yet earned to artificially inflate figures. All three denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.

After four months, the trial was abandoned yesterday when it emerged Rogberg had had a heart attack and was still in hospital awaiting surgery.

Nicholas Purnell, QC, representing Rogberg, had asked for the trial to continue while his client was having treatment.

He told the court: “I think he would be utterly devastated to discover that as a consequence of what he has been through, there’s a possibility that the trial has to start again.”

“It’s an outcome no one could have predicted - or would have wanted,” says the BBC’s Emma Simpson.

“And then there's the cost,” says Simpson. “This has been a complex, multi-million pound, trial. The Serious Fraud Office, which brought the case, will now decide [in March] whether or not a retrial is appropriate. Meanwhile the defendants, who denied the charges, have almost another month to wait to find out what happens next.”

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