Fraud squad eyes end of Tesco investigation

 
Hayley Kirton
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Carrier bags from Tesco
The SFO has been looking into the retailer since 2014 (Source: Getty)

The fraud squad is expected to announce within weeks what its next steps for Tesco will be, as it wraps up its investigation into the black hole in the retailer's accounts.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched its probe into the supermarket giant's accounting practices in October 2014, and brought charges against three individuals, Carl Rogberg, John Scouler and Christopher Bush, this September.

Now, Sky News has reported the SFO has told those close to the case that it expects to reach a decision on whether to bring any further charges or follow through with a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), a type of plea arrangement, by the end of the month.

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Former finance director for Tesco UK Rogberg, ex-commercial director for food Scouler and ex-UK managing director Bush denied the charges against them when they initially appeared in Westminster Magistrates' Court in September. A trial is now scheduled to begin in September next year.

Although not uncommon overseas, DPAs are relatively new in the UK. The SFO secure the country's first ever DPA roughly one year ago and went on to obtain a second this July.

The retailer caught the fraud squad's attention when, two years ago, it admitted it had overstated its profits by £250m as it had incorrectly booked payments to suppliers. That figure has since risen to more than £320m.

The scandal came to light less than a month after Dave Lewis had stepped into the role as Tesco's chief executive, replacing Philip Clarke.

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The SFO and Tesco both declined to comment.

The SFO is not the only agency with an interest in Tesco and the past problems with its books. In August, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) announced it had decided to close an investigation into Laurie McIlwee, the retailer's former chief financial officer, after the watchdog concluded there was "no realistic prospect that a tribunal would make an adverse finding" into McIlwee's conduct.

The FRC's wider investigation into the accounting scandal, which formally launched in December 2014, remains ongoing.

The retailer is also facing legal action from shareholders who are unimpressed about the profits black hole.

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