SFO’s failed Tesco case cost taxpayer over £6m

The Serious Fraud Office blew £6.2 million of taxpayer money as part of its failed attempt to prosecute three former Tesco directors over the supermarket’s accounting scandal.

Figures out on Friday show that the total bill for the investigation of Tesco and the subsequent court cases of Chris Bush, John Scouler and Carl Rogberg, the retailer’s ex-managing director, UK food commercial director and finance chief, came in at £6.2 million.

Of this amount, £2.6 million went to lawyers.

The trio were accused of being aware that income was wrongly included in Tesco’s financial records to meet targets and make the grocery giant look financially healthier than it was, to the tune of £250 million.

All were cleared of one count of fraud and another of false accounting after a judge dismissed the case brought by the SFO against Mr Bush and Mr Scouler because it was too “weak”.

The SFO went to the Court of Appeal regarding the dismissal, but its appeal was dismissed and the men were cleared.

The SFO then dropped its case against Mr Rogberg in January.

The acquittals mean neither Tesco nor any of its executives have been successfully prosecuted over one of the biggest corporate scandals in recent history.

Meanwhile, taxpayers are left nursing a £6.2 million bill, although Tesco itself picked up £3 million of that figure as part of the SFO’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the supermarket.

As part of the DPA, Tesco agreed to pay a fine of £129 million but avoided a trial.

Tesco’s shares plummeted by nearly 12%, wiping £2 billion off its value, when it announced in September 2014 that a statement the previous month had overstated profits by about a quarter of a billion pounds.