LONDON (Reuters) - Philip Clarke, the former chief executive of Tesco TSCO.L, will not face charges from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over the accounting scandal that rocked Britain's biggest retailer in 2014, his lawyer said on Monday.
David Corker, partner at CorkerBinning, told Reuters he had received a letter from the SFO informing him that Clarke would not be prosecuted.
“It has been decided not to initiate criminal proceedings on the grounds there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction,” said the letter.
The SFO declined to comment beyond stating its investigation into Tesco was continuing.
Clarke was sacked as Tesco CEO in July 2014 after three years in the top job.
Last month three former senior executives of Tesco accused of fraud and false accounting were told they would face trial next September.
Christopher Bush, who was managing director of Tesco UK, Carl Rogberg, who was UK finance director, and John Scouler, who was UK food commercial director, were charged by the SFO in September with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting.
The SFO said the alleged crimes occurred between Feb. 1 and Sept. 23, 2014.
Tesco issued a statement to the Stock Exchange on Sept. 22, 2014, saying that during its final preparations for a results announcement it had identified a 250 million pound overstatement of first-half profit, mainly due to booking commercial deals with suppliers too early.
The discovery led to the suspension of eight senior members of staff including Bush, Rogberg and Scouler, sent Tesco’s shares tumbling and plunged the company into the worst crisis since Jack Cohen founded the business nearly 100 years ago.
The profit overstatement, identified three weeks after Dave Lewis took over as CEO from Clarke, was later raised to 263 million pounds.
Clarke not facing charges could have implications for the SFO deciding whether to prosecute Tesco itself.
The former CEO was seen by lawyers as the most likely route amongst the suspects to charges for Tesco Plc as a group or for a deferred prosecution agreement, a type of plea bargain. The other three suspects charged all worked for the UK arm.
Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Sandra Maler
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