Three former Tesco executives today pleaded not guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court on charges stemming from the fraud squad's probe into accounting issues at the supermarket giant.
Former finance director for Tesco UK Carl Rogberg, 49, ex-UK managing director Christopher Bush, 50, and ex-commercial director for food John Scouler, 48, were each charged earlier this month with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting.
Bush and Scouler, who were both wearing dark suits with shirts and ties, along with Rogberg, who wore a dark fleece jacket over a light blue shirt, spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) contests that the alleged activity took place between February and September 2014.
All pleaded not guilty on all counts. A charge of fraud by abuse of position carries a maximum sentence of 10 years while a charge of false accounting carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who oversaw today's hearing, has referred the case on to Southwark Crown Court, with the hearing due on 20 October.
All three men have been released on unconditional bail.
The SFO's wider investigation into Tesco, and the accounting practices which led to the retailer's profits being overstated by more than £263m, is ongoing.
The fraud squad initially took up the case in October 2014, while the retailer originally revealed that there had been a profit overstatement in its accounts exactly two years ago.
A Tesco spokesperson said:
We note the decision of the SFO to bring a prosecution against former colleagues in relation to historic issues and acknowledge the investigation into the company is ongoing. Tesco continues to cooperate with the SFO's investigation.