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Investigation takes five years

Member: Nifa

The former Chief Executive of failed retailer JJB Sports has been convicted this week of a million pound fraud, following a five-year investigation, having been found guilty of receiving undeclared and dishonest cash payments from suppliers.

Christopher Ronnie was convicted of three offences of fraud by failing to disclose his interests in JJB Sports contracts and two offences of furnishing false information relating to a loan document said to have been “faked” from Icelandic bank Kaupthing, while the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) also made a case against two JJB suppliers, who were found guilty of destroying evidence and misleading the authorities.

Mr Ronnie owed around £11m to Kaupthing after he purchased a 30 per cent stake in JJB funded by the bank. However, he produced loan documents to Kaupthing signed by himself and one of his suppliers purporting to show he was in receipt of a loan from the company, which were “faked” and a “fiction”, according to the prosecution.

The payments to Mr Ronnie, which he partly used to buy property in Florida, were not disclosed to the board of JJB, as the company agreed deals with the supplier.  Finally, a computer engineer, who was asked by the suppliers to delete emails, which he felt was “odd”, including details of their deals with Mr Ronnie, alerted the SFO to the cover-up in 2009.

The minute the SFO was made aware of the alleged irregularities, they will have started with a forensic investigation and any clues, such as the computer engineer’s disquiet and large sums going to pay for foreign property will have fuelled their quest to see the true picture.  Forensic accountants are trained to pick up on the slightest anomaly and their expert witness, either in person on in written form, helps investigating authorities determine whether or not there is a case to answer.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 21 November 2014

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