Lewis has been summoned to testify in the trial involving three of Tesco’s former executives.
Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis, who took the reins at Tesco just three weeks after the accounting scandal erupted, will appear as a witness in the trial involving three former executives of Britain’s largest retailer.
The trial centers around a scandal that dates back to 2014, when the supermarket chain revealed it had previously overstated its profits by £263m ($326.03m), which it later revised up by £63m. The overstatement was identified around three weeks after Lewis took the CEO position from his predecessor Philip Clarke.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched its inquiry into the profit overstatement case in October 2014. Apart from Clarke, several other senior Tesco executives were interviewed over the accounting fraud.
In September 2016, the SFO said that it is charging three former executives; Christopher Bush, managing director of Tesco UK, Carl Rogberg, the ex-finance director, and John Scouler, the former commercial director in connection with the profit overstatement at the retailer.
The three executives have been charged with one count of fraud and one count of false accounting each. They could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of fraud by abuse and a maximum of seven years for false accounting.
At a pre-hearing trial on Tuesday (30 May), it emerged Lewis was among 10 witnesses to have been called up by the prosecution, along with Tesco’s group general counsel Adrian Morris. Lewis, who was parachuted into his role at Tesco a month earlier than expected after his predecessor was sacked following a string of profit warnings, said the profit overstatement was “out of the ordinary” and he had never seen anything like it before.
In March of this year, Tesco agreed to pay a £129m fine after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with the Serious Fraud Office after a two-and-a-half year investigation. However, the details cannot be published until the trial of the three former directors, which is scheduled to begin in September, is over.
The retailer also struck a deal worth around £85m with the Financial Conduct Authority to compensate affected shareholders.
Under Lewis’ stewardship, Tesco has lowered prices and bolstered customer service in a bid to recover from the worst scandal in its history. The measures are beginning to pay off as last month the supermarket reported the first full year of sales growth in the UK since 2009/10, after sales rose 0.9% year-on-year.