September 30, 2018 / 11:01 PM / 22 days ago

Re-trial of former Tesco executives accused of fraud to begin this week

LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Two former senior executives of Tesco accused of fraud and false accounting at Britain’s biggest retailer are due to face a re-trial this week at a London court.

Christopher Bush, 52, who was managing director of Tesco UK, and John Scouler, 50, who was UK food commercial director, are both charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting. Both deny any wrongdoing.

A first trial was called off in February, shortly before the jury was due to retire to consider its verdict.

The case stems from an overstatement of Tesco’s profit forecast in 2014.

On Sept. 22, 2014, the group issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange saying that during its final preparations for an interim results announcement it had identified a 250 million pound ($326 million) overstatement of its expected profit for the half-year, mainly due to booking commercial deals with suppliers too early.

In the following weeks, Tesco suspended eight senior members of staff, including Bush and Scouler. Tesco’s shares tumbled and the retailer was plunged into the worst crisis in its near 100-year history.

The profit forecast overstatement, identified three weeks after Dave Lewis took over as chief executive from Philip Clarke, was later raised to 263 million pounds.

The forecast related to guidance published by Tesco in a trading update on Aug. 29, 2014, downgrading its outlook.

According to the indictment, Bush and Scouler concealed Tesco’s true financial position from its auditors and other employees between Feb. 1, 2014 and Sept. 23, 2014.

Legal representatives for Bush and Scouler declined to comment ahead of the trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Jury selection is slated for Monday and Tuesday with the trial expected to start on Wednesday. ($1 = 0.7659 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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