Ex-Ahold bosses guilty of fraud

The former chief executive and chief financial officer of Dutch retail giant Ahold have been found guilty of fraud.

A court in Amsterdam handed down the verdicts to Cees van der Hoeven and Michiel Meurs for their roles in one of Europe’s largest accounting scandals.

Each has been fined 225,000 euros ($286,800; £153,000) and given nine-month suspended sentences.

The men were accused of bringing Ahold to the brink of collapse after to a 1bn euro ($1.2bn; £686m) financial scandal.

Prosecutors had called for a 20-month jail sentences – six of them suspended – for both Mr van der Hoeven and Mr Meurs.

The men have been on trial since early March, together with Ahold’s former European activities director Jan Andreae and the former chairman of Ahold’s accounting commission Roland Fahlin.

Public prosecutors have described the fraud trial as one of the biggest in Dutch legal history.

Ahold saw its share price collapse in February 2003 following the revelation that it had fraudulently included profits and revenues of independent overseas subsidiaries on its own balance sheet.

The company, which at the time was the world’s fourth largest retailer, only managed to avoid insolvency by selling assets and securing an emergency credit line from its banks.

Defence lawyers have described the case against the defendants as one based on “prejudices, assumptions and approximations”.

But prosecutor Hendrik-Jan Biemond told the court: “Everything that stood in the way of growth objective was banned…the absence of integrity was characteristic of this management.”

The defendants have already settled fraud charges in the US connected to Ahold’s American chains Stop & Shop and Giant.

Under their deal with US financial watchdog Securities and Exchange Commission, they admitted no guilt but accepted a lifetime ban from holding office in a publicly traded company.

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