Fraud investigators have insisted that the trial of the “Tesco three” will start on Monday as scheduled despite suggestions that the prosecution is likely to seek an adjournment.
The Lawyer magazine reported that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was beset by “internal delays” and that it would be forced to instruct its legal team to apply for a delay because it was “not ready” to proceed.
Investigators have charged Carl Rogberg, the finance director of Tesco UK, Christopher Bush, its former managing director, and John Scouler, its former commercial director for food, with abuse of position under the Fraud Act 2006. The three also face one charge each of false accounting under the Theft Act 1968.
Sources told the magazine that the SFO was “scrambling around” in an attempt to avoid applying for an adjournment. However, according to the report, there was a strong chance that it would be forced to ask for a delay, which could push the trial back by more than a year.
The SFO said that it was still working towards the original start date. A spokesman said: “The trial remains scheduled to start on the 4th September. In order to ensure a fair trial, we cannot comment further.”
White collar crime lawyers were unsurprised by rumours that the prosecution might be facing internal delays in bringing the case. “The SFO have traditionally taken ages to both decide to prosecute and then get ready for trial,” Raj Chada, a white collar crime partner at the London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said.
“Prosecuting authorities always seem to forget that there are real people at the end of these decisions, whose lives are in limbo and under incredible stress and strain. If the SFO think that they have a case, they should devote the resources to it and get on with it.”