Tesco’s former UK finance boss has been cleared of fraud following the grocer’s £250m accounting scandal.
Carl Rogberg was cleared of all charges at Southwark Crown Court today after a judge ruled there was no case against him.
Two other former Tesco directors, Chris Bush and John Scouler, were acquitted in December after a judge threw out the case.
Rogberg was not fit enough to take part in that retrial after having a heart attack during the first trial.
Following his acquittal, Rogberg launched a stinging attack on Tesco and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which Tesco has already paid a £129m fine to.
Rogberg said: “The trial has had enormous consequences on my health and exemplary career, as well as for my wife, my son, my family and my friends.
“This decision is so much more than simply an acquittal. The trial judge ruled that the prosecution had no case and stopped the trial. The SFO tried to appeal that decision. Three appeal court judges refused permission for the SFO to appeal and confirmed the trial judge’s decision. In short, there was never any evidence of my wrongdoing and I should never have been charged.
“I have serious questions for Tesco and the SFO about the way this case has been handled throughout.”
He added: “The circumstances were never properly investigated by Tesco from the outset. They rushed to the wrong judgement and then entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the SFO on a completely false basis. Truth and justice were abandoned for their commercial imperatives.
“Tesco needlessly paid over £129m in fines, not to mention the value that was lost in the company as a result of this fiasco. Their drastic action has been extremely damaging for Tesco’s employees, shareholders and pension funds.”
Rogberg said the SFO “uncritically adopted” Tesco’s approach, adding that it “failed to carry out a professional investigation” and “made fundamental errors”.
“They refused to see the truth, preferring instead to drive on blindly with the prosecution,” Rogberg said. “They pressed the case through two long trials and even mounted a hopeless appeal against the judge’s decision to stop the case. This was all a dreadful waste of taxpayers’ money.”
The case was sparked in September 2014 when Tesco’s newly appointed boss Dave Lewis was made aware of a black hole in the grocer’s accounts.
A whistleblower claimed payments from suppliers were being manipulated to make Tesco’s profits look healthier. It inflated the grocer’s bottom line by more than £250m.
A Tesco spokesman said today: “In September 2014 Tesco announced an overstatement of expected profit at Tesco Stores Limited, which was independently investigated and verified by Deloitte. Following an investigation which lasted over two years and concluded in April 2017, Tesco entered into a DPA [deferred prosecution agreement] with the SFO. This DPA was also separately approved by a senior High Court Judge, LJ Leveson, as being in the interests of justice.
“Since 2014, we have fundamentally transformed our business, and Tesco today is a very different company. We have introduced a new model for the way we buy and sell products; we have made wide ranging changes to our leadership; we have improved accountability, and we have developed stronger partnerships with our suppliers. Our business is stronger as a result of these changes.”