Tesco's former commercial director will not face charges over accounting scandal

LONDON (Reuters) - The former group commercial director of Tesco, Kevin Grace, 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 Thursday.

File photo of a Tesco supermarket seen at dusk in an 'art deco' style building at Perivale in west London, Britain, January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files

Stephen Pollard, partner at law firm WilmerHale, said he had been informed Grace would not face charges, declining to comment further.

The SFO declined to comment beyond stating its more than two-years investigation into Tesco was continuing.

Grace left Tesco in 2014 shortly after the scandal broke.

Last month Philip Clarke, the former chief executive of Tesco, found out he would not face charges.

In October, 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 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 and Grace not facing charges could have implications for the SFO deciding to prosecute the company itself.

The two were 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 Alan Crosby