Tesco directors were responsible for 'bullying' employees into false accounting collusion

Alys Key
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Carl Rogberg is one of three on trial for fraud and false accounting (Source: Getty)

Three former Tesco directors have been called "bullies" in court as their trial for fraud and false accounting draws to a close.

Former Tesco UK managing director Christopher Bush, former commercial director for food John Scouler, and former finance director Carl Rogberg were today described as the "generals" who gave orders to the "footsoldiers" by Sasha Wass QC representing the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

As part of her closing statement, Wass told the jury that while many other staff may have approved or carried out false accounting before the 2014 scandal, it was the three executives facing charges who bore responsibility.

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Revisiting witness statements from earlier in the trial, she said that potentially hundreds of people knew about the practice of recording income not yet received in an earlier financial period, termed "illegitimate pull-forward".

But she said that it was the three defendants who had created the culture in which the false accounting took place.

She added that the board of the company "had absolutely no idea" what was going on and that, according to the witness statements of those at the top of Tesco at the time, had been "appalled" by the revelation that profits had been overstated by nearly £250m.

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On Monday Wass told the jury that although the former directors had officially known about the overstatement from at least 16 September 2014, they had not acted immediately, with Bush even playing golf in this period.

Today she contrasted that with the response of Tesco's board, who had an "honest sense of corporate responsibility".

"They didn't sit on it or put it on the back burner or go and play golf like the defendants did. They did everything to get to the bottom of it," she said.

Closing statements are expected to continue all week. The trial continues.

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