Dec 6, 2018

Tesco fraud case crumbles as SFO tries to have cake and eat it

The collapse of a fraud trial against two former Tesco executives suggests the SFO was the one trying to have its cake twice - and now left eating humble pie. "On Thursday, ex-Tesco directors Christopher Bush and John Scouler were acquitted after appeal judges backed an original ruling that they had no case to answer. So weak was the SFO's evidence against them that the court felt it should not be put to a jury. This led to inevitable criticisms of the SFO's judgment. Mr Bush said"serious questions should be asked about the way in which the SFO has conducted this investigation". For the SFO, the trial was a first attempt to prosecute individuals after securing a DPA. In 2017, it had entered a DPA with Tesco Stores Ltd: a deal whereby Tesco plc paid £129m to suspend a criminal prosecution provided it complied with certain conditions. The SFO had entered DPAs with three other companies but without pursuing individual staff. As a result, Tesco may now feel it did not need to agree that £129m DPA in the first place - and other companies facing fraud allegations may feel emboldened to refuse an SFO deal in future.

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