Former Tesco directors cleared of fraud over 2014 accounting scandal

LONDON (Reuters) – Two former directors of Tesco (TSCO.L) have been acquitted of fraud and false accounting at Britain’s biggest retailer after a 2014 scandal, dealing a major blow to the UK Serious Fraud Office.

Former Tesco executive Christopher Bush leaves Southwark Crown Court in London, Britain, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Christopher Bush, 52, who was managing director of Tesco UK, and John Scouler, 50, who was UK food commercial director, had been accused of wrongdoing to support Tesco’s share price and secure huge compensation packages.

The case, brought by the SFO, stemmed from an overstatement of Tesco’s profit forecast of more than 250 million pounds ($318 million) in 2014.

However, on Thursday Judge John Royce told a jury at London’s Southwark Crown Court that the men had been acquitted by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

He said the Court of Appeal concluded that his judgment at the mid-point of the trial that the defendants had no case to answer was correct and refused the SFO permission to appeal.

“I concluded in certain crucial areas the prosecution case was so weak it should not be left for a jury’s consideration,” Royce said, before discharging the jury.

Bush and Scouler were charged in September 2016 with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting. A first trial was abandoned in February, shortly before the jury was due to retire to consider its verdict.

The re-trial had been running since October.

SERIOUS QUESTIONS

“While I am delighted that my innocence has finally been established, it

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