Chris Bush, former UK managing director, and John Scouler, former UK food commercial director of Tesco have been acquitted of £250m fraud and false accounting charges after a judge ruled there was a lack of evidence.
In August 2014, Tesco reported half-year profits of £1.1bn, however weeks later its said profits had been overstated by £250m. Both Bush and Scouler, denied charges of fraud and false accounting.
Following the acquittal, Bush said: “While I am delighted that my innocence has finally been established, it is troubling that Mr Scouler and I were ever charged. I am now looking forward to getting home and spending Christmas with my family.”
It was alleged the pair were aware that income had been wrongly included in the company’s financial reports to meet targets and make Tesco look better off than it was. Tesco found that profits had been overstated by £284m, due to early payments from suppliers and delays in charging costs. The defendants had been on trial at Southwark Crown Court for eight weeks.
Judge Sir John Royce dismissed the case brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), saying: “I concluded in certain crucial areas the prosecution case was so weak it should not be left for a jury’s consideration”. The SFO tried to overturn the decision at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, however it was unsuccessful and the men were cleared by Court of Appeal judges.
Richard Sallybanks, of BCL Solicitors who represented 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.”
Ross Dixon, partner at Hickman and Rose, and solicitor for Bush, addedd: “The trial judge heard from 30 witnesses and considered thousands of pages of written evidence; he reached the firm conclusion that there was no case for the defendants to answer.
“The Court of Appeal has now affirmed that decision and refused the SFO permission to appeal. Quite how the SFO managed to so fundamentally misunderstand the effect of its own evidence demands an answer.”
The jury was discharged and exempted from jury service for 20 years.