Prosecutors in the UK trial of three former Tesco executives accused of accounting fraud have given “sinister” meanings to legitimate accounting practices that aren’t supported by their own witnesses, according to a lawyer for one of the defendants.
In closing arguments to the jury Thursday, Nicholas Purnell, who is representing Tesco’s former UK finance head Carl Rogberg, said the practice of “pulling forward” - booking income in a different period than when it was secured - was legitimate, despite the prosecution insinuating it could only be a misrepresentation of income.
“There was, in fact, a basis of pull forward that was common across the business, and remained common across the business, which did not have any sinister connotation,” said Purnell.
The prosecution “are relying on a definition which is not supported by those witnesses upon which they seek to rely.”
In September 2014, Tesco said it had overstated profits by about £250 million after a senior Tesco accountant compiled a report drawing attention to potentially questionable book-keeping practices.
The revelation wiped about £2 billion from Tesco’s market value.
The UK Serious Fraud Office opened an investigation and charged Rogberg, ex-UK chief Chris Bush, and the former British commercial director John Scouler in 2016.
Closing arguments in the trial, which started in September, are due to finish next week. The judge is scheduled to sum up the case and send the jury away to deliberate in January.