Ex-chief of JJB charged amid £1m fraud case

THE former chief executive of JJB Sports, Chris Ronnie, has been charged after a two and a half year probe into an alleged £1m fraud.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) yesterday announced that Ronnie has been charged with three fraud offences, two counts of money laundering and two counts of furnishing false information, in relation to contracts he entered into during his time as JJB boss.
But Ronnie’s lawyer, Anthony Barnfather at Pannone, said that the former chief executive was “surprised and disappointed at the decision”.

He added: “[Ronnie] strenuously denies the charges, has always maintained his innocence and is confident his position will be vindicated in due course.”

Ex-JJB supplier David Patrick Ball has also been charged with three counts of furnishing false information. Both men were released on bail.

The Office of Fair Trading was called in three years ago to look into whether JJB had fixed prices with rival retailer Sports Direct.

The SFO, which took over the inquiry, announced in October 2010 that it would not bring charges against either sports retailer but that the investigation into individuals was ongoing.

However, the charges against Ronnie and Ball are understood not to be connected to the original inquiry into anti-competitive behaviour.

Separately, the SFO yesterday said that £50m of assets were recovered from the proceeds of crime last year, up from £42.5m in 2010, and average secured prison sentences grew to 55 months from 30 months previously.