LONDON — In what has so far been a dramatic year for Britain’s mass retailers, with scandals, closures and investigations, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office said Friday it has charged three former Tesco executives with fraud.
One of Britain’s largest supermarket chains, Tesco had been under investigation by the SFO since 2014 for accounting practices. The company had admitted to overstating its profit figures in error by hundreds of millions of pounds.
Britain’s SFO is an independent government department overseen by the attorney general. It has the power to investigate and eventually prosecute those who commit crimes involving complex fraud, bribery and corruption.
On Friday, the SFO said it had charged Carl Rogberg, 49; Christopher Bush, 50, and John Scouler, 48, with one count of fraud by abuse of position, and one count of false accounting.
The SFO said the alleged activity occurred between February and September 2014. The men have been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Sept. 22, and the SFO said the investigation into Tesco remains ongoing.
Tesco published a statement on its web site, saying it has “noted the decision of the SFO to bring a prosecution against former colleagues in relation to historic issues,” and that it acknowledges the investigation into the company is ongoing.
“Tesco continues to cooperate with the SFO’s investigation. The last two years have seen an extensive program of change at Tesco, but given this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to provide any further comment at this time,” the retailer added.
Shares in Tesco were down 1.7 percent to 1.68 pounds, or $2.24, following the announcement on Friday.
Tesco has more than 3,500 stores in the U.K. and employs upward of 310,000 people. It operates stores in 11 countries in Europe, Eastern Europe, India and the Far East. Its products range from groceries, fuel and appliances to clothing for men, women and children under the F&F label.
The Tesco charges are the latest scandal to hit the British high street, following the collapse of BHS earlier this year, and the ongoing investigations into its sale and pension deficit, and the failure of Austin Reed, a heritage retailer that also fell into administration earlier this year.